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Haz el bien, y no mires a quién. -Spanish Proverb


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A merry little Bilbao Christmas

It’s Christmas Eve, and for the first time in my 23 years of life, I’m not at home with my family. On one hand, I could say it doesn’t feel like Christmas at all because I’m far from home and there’s no snow (although they very strangely don’t have any snow back home right now anyway!), but on the other hand I think it feels very much like Christmas. There are lights everywhere, Christmas songs playing in the stores, little kids all dressed up…Christmas is a big deal here, so unless you stay inside all day long, you’re probably going to catch a little Christmas spirit at some point.

Plaza Indautxu

I’ve coped with being away from home during the holidays by embracing the experience of Christmas in a different culture. Much is similar, of course, but there are a few differences. For example, here in the Basque Country, the children prefer the fictional character called Olentzero to Santa Claus (coincidentally, Olentzero does EXACTLY the same thing that Santa does, but he lives up in the Basque Mountains, of course ;))

There is no shortage of Christmas goodies, and they’re delightfully different than the ones I’m used to. The most popular Spanish Christmas goodies are polvorón and turrón, both of which come in endless varieties and are really unlike anything I’ve ever eaten:

turrón

polvorón

Tonight, I get to experience a Christmas Eve dinner with a Spanish/Basque family here in Bilbao (the host family of one of my good American friends here.) Then it’s home to open presents with my family via Skype at 5:30pm CST (so 12:30am for me!) Then I have a week packed to the gills with exciting travels to Madrid, Tenerife (one of the Canary Islands) and then back to Madrid for a Nochevieja (New Year’s Eve) to remember 🙂

I’ve been shooting some videos all around Bilbao over the last several weeks leading up to Christmas with the main purpose of putting them together to give my family and friends back home and idea of what Christmas looks like in Bilbao.

Fam, friends, and faithful readers: this one’s for you!

“Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow. Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow. So have yourself a merry little Christmas now!”

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Sevilla, ¡qué maravilla!

Happy Saturday! A bit delayed, but I’ve put together a little video of our trip to Sevilla last weekend. So sit back, relax, and be transported to this magical land of narrow streets lined with horse carriages, royal palaces with lush garden labyrinths, breathtaking architecture at every turn and, of course, flamenco:

 

Hasta la proxima vez….¡Olé!


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time flies when you’re not frozen

It’s December 6th??? Whaaat?! Each year, time seems to fly by even faster, and talking about this phenomenon makes me feel old. :-p In defense of my [relatively young] self, I will say that the difference between this year and all the others in my life is that it’s the first time I’ve been out of North Dakota for the start of winter. I’m quite thankful to be far from the frigid, subzero temperatures of my homeland, but being away from the progression of chilly to snowy to freezing and more snowy has really thrown off my sense of the passage of time this year. I haven’t had my usual “winter is here!” indicators, like wearing a heavy coat and mittens,  trudging through snow and scraping the ice off my window shield.

my parents' backyard in ND

It’s certainly the Christmas season here in Bilbao; the city is beautifully decorated (more on this coming soon in another post!), but it’s definitely not “winter” by my standards.

an oxymoron for me: palm tree and flowers in full bloom in the foreground, christmas lights in the background. Where am I??

Aside from actively trying to get myself in the Christmas spirit, I’ve just been in the usual grind (er…actually, what’s the opposite of a “grind”?) of the life of an auxiliar. We worked long, hard full 12-hour workweeks for the entire month of November, but this past week we’ve all gotten a big break–some for the whole week, and others of us for half the week because a couple of random Spanish holidays happen to fall on the first week of December: yesterday was Spanish Constitution Day, and Thursday is the Day of Immaculate Conception.

Due to our plethora of vacation days, everyone is taking pre-Christmas vacation vacations this week. That way we can be refreshed enough to power through to our two-week break coming up in just 17 days! Hah.

I’m taking advantage of this pre-Christmas vacay by heading tomorrow to the charming cultural capital of southern Spain: “Seville” for you americanos. Here, this gem of a city is called “Sevilla” (say-vee-uh)–usually heard easily rolled off the tongue in an affectionate manner, indicating the seemingly ubiquitous love for this place. A few friends and I selected this location based on the ridiculously low cost of flying there this week (50€ round trip!) and the fact that you just can’t go wrong with a trip to Seville. I’ve been there once before with my parents. We saw the main attractions and attended and absolutely breathtaking flamenco show. I’m excited for my second go-around: to be re-united with the sultry, laid-back land of Andalusia, and to dig deeper into the ample and varied goodness this city has to offer.

My dad and I in front of Spain's largest cathedral in sunny Seville in April of 2010

Flamenco is a must-see in Seville. Check out the feet:

To all of you back home, I send my love and warm, happy thoughts.

Mantengas abrigado!