In the teaching program I am in, I will be re-newing for a second year.
As a second year teacher in the program, I will have priority of my choice of destinations.

My choices are limited to:
ANYWHERE in the entire country of Spain. 

For an American not living in Europe, you make think it's no big deal. But, this is like having a job opportunity in any state, and having to choose just one, when each one is filled with so much different culture. 

Before deciding, I'm doing my research on any and all destinations in Spain. Along with it, I thought I'd give y'all (I'd probably choose a southern state if this was the US....yeehaw!) a little lesson in Spanish geography.
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This is Spain. Member of Europe. Neighbor of France and Portugal. See Italy close by? The boot? And Africa underneath?
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Sidenote: THIS is not Spain. We don't eat spicy foods here. We don't say "¬°Ay mamacita!" on the streets. Nobody wears sombreros here (at least not anyone I associate with). And we aren't just over the border from the US.
If you did not know that, please shut down your computer and go buy a map.
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The orange part of this map is Castilla y Leon, Spain. The capital city (and center) of this region is the place where I live now, Valladolid.
Castilla y Leon has rich wine, beautiful cathedrals, and the best, purest form of Castellano Spanish you will ever find.

Salamanca has the prettiest plaza mayor and golden light in the streets. León has history and free tapas. Segovia's castles are breathtaking. And there isn't enough I can say about Valladolid. I really do love my cuidad

The weather is pretty much the opposite of Florida, and the people are said to be frio right along with it. I find this stipulation to be untrue, in general.
Asturias, Galicia, and Cantabria are all in Northern Spain. 

These regions bring fresh seafood and beautiful landscapes. You have the mountains on one side of you while the sea is on your other. It can be rainy at certain times of the year, but when it isn't, the landscape glows with green grass. 
In the south of Spain is Andalucia

When you hear "Spain"...this is what you picture in your head. Or at least I did before I knew my own version.

White houses (no, Americans, not like Obama's). Flamenco. Sangria. And SUN. In summer, it gets up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 
On the east coast of Spain on the Mediterranean cost is Barcelona and the region of Cataluña. 

One of the most famous tourist spots because of its picturesque surroundings. In this region, they speak Catalan in the schools, which is an entire other language. That, I don't know if I'm quite willing to take on.
The Balearic Islands are off that same coast of Spain, situated smack in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea.

The climate is supposed to be perfect, and the people are said to love fiesta. Ibiza, one of the islands, is a party capital of the world.
The Canary Islands are another option. A popular vacation spot in Spain, off the coast of Africa. And they are just a bit closer to my home in Florida because we both share the Atlantic ocean.

It goes with out saying there is MUCH more to Spain than these few highlights on the map. I haven't even touched on Castilla la Mancha, Extremadura, La Rioja, Madrid, Navara, the Basque Country, Aragon, Valencia, and Murcia.

If you had your choice, how would you choose? The hardest part, is I am not going on a vacation, I am going to live there. 

The first time I came here, I had no other option. The second, I knew where my heart was. 

Now, I'm ready for another year of adventure!

But, where do I go?
 
 
You know You Live in Spain When:

-Every toddler around you has better style than you.

-Your own two feet (or Renfe) will take you anywhere you need to go.

-You add 'super' to any Spanish adjective to make it sound extra special.

-There is a can or jar of recycled olive oil next to your stove.

-You hear "GOALLLLLLLLL!" being shouted from somewhere within your apartment building.
(No joke, literally just happened while I was writing this blog.)

-You basically hock a loogie everytime you say 'jamon, jugar" or any word beginning with jota.

-You eat a bocadillo while keeping the foil wrapped around the bottom.

-You know a man in his 30's whose mother still does his laundry.

-You scan Mercadona at 9:10pm on a Saturday night just in case you are missing something you will need for Sunday's comida.

-You pay for other people on your birthday.

-Your new name to every stranger on the street becomes either your hair color or your nationality.

-The old couple walking hand-in-hand next to you makes you think of Allie and Noah from The Notebook and smile.

-You know the best place to store clean pots and pans is inside of the oven.

-When you, for the first time in your life, fall in love with a country and a culture. And never let it go!

And coming soon: You Know You Live in Valladolid When...
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Your new life's staple.
 
 
On New Year's Eve in Spain, there is no ball drop. And no big midnight kiss.

Instead, the clock in the Puerta del Sol of Madrid chimes for the last 12 seconds of the old year. With each chime, you must eat one grape.

Both a Spanish tradition and superstition, it is said that if you finish all of your grapes, you will have 12 months of good luck for the new year. 

Good luck never comes easily though.
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Be careful...they have seeds!
I was nervous about primarily, finishing the grapes. Secondly, I was envisioning myself choking on the seeds inside, not being able to ring in the new year at all. Also, being surrounded by friends and their family members, I didn't want to look like an unattractive grape-hog. 

I will admit, I struggled with a few of the grapes. And a few others, I concentrated on a bit more. The 2nd grape: February. My applications for next year are due. The 4th grape: April. My brother's wedding. The 11th grape: November. My 25th birthday. All symbolizing a year that is yet to come. 

Overall, I had no problem, and finished them like a true campeón

There are other Spanish traditions related to the doce uvas. Standing on your right foot while eating them will help you begin the new year in the 'right' way. And dropping your ring in your glass of champagne for the first toast of the new year is said to bring luck as well.

Another tradition says that wearing red (red underwear especially) on New Year's Eve in Spain brings good luck. But, they have to be gifted to you by somebody else.

What are some traditions or superstitions you have for New Year's Eve?
 
 
I have been home for almost a week. And in that week, I have been indulging in many of the American things I have missed the last four months living in Europe. 

One of them, Starbucks Peppermint Mochas.
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Is there anything that says Christmas as much as a peppermint-flavored, over-priced coffee in a holiday-red cup?
While at Starbucks, I placed my order, and gave them my name, per usual. 

It was what happened next that shocked me.

As I went to use the one-person bathroom inside while waiting for my coffee to be made, I shut the door behind me, and waved my hands in the air to turn on the light. After a few seconds of this, I realized something.

I am in the United States now. The lights don't react to a censor, like in Europe. There is an actual light switch! And there I was, waving my arms around like an idiot, wondering what was wrong with this bathroom.

You have seen the Reasons Why I am 25 percent Spanish. Almost exactly 3 months from that blog post, being back in the States has shown me just how Spanish I am becoming.

How Spain is Changing Me:
-I'm never hungry here until actual lunch time. That is, 2:30pm.

-I told my little brothers they needed to put on socks while walking around on the tile floor.

-I can't help but sit and enjoy my coffee instead of walking around with it.

-I no longer pull out my cell phone during family dinners.

-I speak in Spaniard-English to everyone.
Examples: "It's the same." "Tell me." "And you?" and "As you want."

-I ate a piece of fruit last week with a knife and fork.

-Spicy stuff is seriously spicy for me. I even found myself thinking "¡pica!" when I bit into dinner last night. 

-I knew right away that the man on the phone in the store yesterday was from Argentina because of his Spanish accent.

-I want to sit and eat in a restaurant for hours and hours, not get up when we are finished.

-Staying true to my blog title, I still want to take a siesta everyday.

What do you think....am I 40 percent Spanish by now?
 
 
What is a tapa?
A tapa is a small plate of food served with a drink.
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A simple tapa of home-made potatoes and pepper
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An extensive tapa of Grilled goat cheese and a fried ham and cheese eggroll
Where did tapas originate?
Tapa means lid in Spanish, and it is said that long ago in a terrible storm, the King put a piece of jamon on top of his glass of wine so the dust wouldn't get in. Thus creating a lid, or, a tapa.
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A mini sandwich of Morcilla. (You don't want to know what Morcilla is...trust me. Eat, then ask.)
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Bread with onions, meat and cheese all baked together and designed to look like a replica of a typical little kid's dessert.
How much do tapas cost?
The most expensive tapa I've had was 3 euros. And the least expensive- free! In León, Spain, most tapas are free with the purchase of a drink. 
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Toast with Morcilla on top (Again, don't ask. But it's delicious.)
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This egg is about the size of a quarter.
How many tapas do you eat at once?
One if you are eating them as an appetizer before a meal, or 3-5 if you are heading out tapa-hopping (as I like to call it) for a night's activity with friends. 
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The "Obama en la Casa Blanca" tapa famous in Valladolid
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Pulpo (octopus) with potatoes
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Pincho Moruno with mustard sauce
What is the best tapa?
We all have our opinions. My personal favorite is the croqueta. A fried ball of ham, fish, or cheeses, etc. Simple and traditionally Spanish, but with tons of different options of what could be inside.
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Life is like a croqueta, you never know which one you're gonna get.
 
 
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Vineyards
One item on my bucket list this year is to become a wine connoisseur in Spain. Drinking wine in bars and tomar-ing algo on Saturday nights hasn't really helped me in that department. 

Instead, day trips to wine-making regions and talking with locals about different types and flavors of wine is slowly helping me achieve my goal. 

Most recently, I took a day trip to the province of Zamora for a wine-tasting tour. 
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Vino, vino, and more...vino!
While there, I visited many different bodegas (wine cellars) and got a real sabor for what wine tasting is all about.
The Basics of Wine Tasting
Step 1: The Tilt. Tilt the glass to take in the true color and clarity of the wine.

Step 2: The Swirl. Swirl your glass for about 10 seconds and sniff. Take in the true smell of the wine and inhale. 

Step 3: The Sip. Take that first sip of wine and let it sit in your mouth a bit, enlightening your palate.

Step 4: El fin. The finish is the aftertaste and observance of the wine and its flavors.
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The wine is taking a little siesta. If you call little 2-3 years.
The wines from Toro were mostly dark, bold wines with lots of flavors. 

Wines there are muy fuerte. And they are also famous. Said to be the very first that Christopher Colombus brought to America, I think that this proves that even in 1492 Americans craved a little bit of that Spanish lifestyle.

The wines were so strong, that after a day of tasting, I had to mix them with tonic water at dinner to tranquila a bit.  

I haven't yet acquired the tolerance of a Spaniard. The drinking age is 18 here, so they start earlier.
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Wine tasting in Bodegas Monte La Reina
Needless to say, they don't call this area of Spain La Tierra del Vino (the land of wine) for nothing. 

Beautiful bodegas, strong wine, and one day trip luego...I am fully lip-stained, but one step closer to becoming a wine connoisseur!
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Lip-Stained in Zamora
 
 
One of my favorite Spanish songs is Lady Madrid by Pereza. Both for the ease of the lyrical translation (I can rock out to it even in Spanish) and the memory of my friends singing it aloud in the car when I first arrived in Spain last year.
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This fin de semana in Madrid made me feel like, well, Lady Madrid.

Madrid is Spain's capital and largest city in the country. And it's a city with a lot to offer. The Plaza Mayor, Puerta de Sol, Gran Vía, the Prado museum, the Sunday flea markets, and the nightlife are only a glimpse of the things that will entertain you in Madrid. 

My favorite part about the weekend was hanging out in Parque del Retiro, conviently close to the city center and our hotel. 
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Spaniards exercise on paths, picnic between the trees, and take siestas on the grass while tourists enjoy the monuments and statues placed throughout the park.

Everyone basques in the beauty of the elegant landscapes this park has to offer.
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I did a little steering....
Enjoying (and captaining) a boat ride around the lake in the park was the perfect way to enjoy the Spanish sunshine. 
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....and a little relaxing.
I wanted to spend the whole day in the park, but the excitement of the capital took me away to other destinations.
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Beautiful buildings everywhere.
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La Plaza Mayor
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Churches around every corner.
I heard at least 10 different languages being spoken around me during my walk around the city. I saw sushi restaurants! (But didn't have time to eat at one, que pena.) And I made some new friends from all over the world. 

I also got a piece of home this weekend hanging out with the Americans at my conference and taking in a little American comida

Ahem...and, no, of course I didn't eat at McDonalds and have a Starbucks coffee this weekend. 

A city with so much to offer, I knew that I only took in a glimpse of the city in my past trips to Madrid. This weekend was no exception. So, don't worry Madrid, you're lady will be back soon!
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Lady Madrid?
 
 
Calculation complete.
I am confident in saying that I am about 25 percent española.
My name, my appearance, and my place of birth scream Americana.  But that doesn't mean I can't be a little bit Spanish!
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Reasons why I am part-Spaniard:

I take siestas.

I don't have to carefully examine the euro coins when paying for that café con leche anymore.

I walk in the shade, even if it's out of my way.

I am sometimes late to appointments or obligations and it doesn't matter.

I can name and locate the 17 autonomous regions of Spain and 9 provinces in Castilla y Léon on a map.

I blame things on the crisis.

I pay more money to sit on the terrace.

If I have a sore throat, I wrap a scarf around my neck and it heals it.

I have the Spain Spanish accent when I speak. Gracias: gra-thee-as

I can cook a mean tortilla de patatas
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My dad helped me with this one last year.
Reasons why I will never be fully Spanish:

I can't say 'hasta luego' in 3 syllables.

I enjoy butter on my bread.

I have spent more than 3 hours in the past week lost on the city bus system.

I will always have an American work ethic and schedule. Lo siento, mis amigos.

There is always something I need on a Sunday.

Other than the most popular ones, I know none of the names of the Spanish soccer players, nor which team they belong to.

I know the words to the American songs that come on in the bar, and never hesitate to sing a long. 

I stick out my hand for a handshake on impulse when I say hello. And yell "Oh my God!" when I'm excited.

I still take photos with statues and buildings around the city.
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Spanish by heritage, no. By habits that I can't break? Impossible. 

But by lifestyle? I am well on my way!
 
 
For those who aren't aware (or try to block it from memory after your trip to Spain); Sunday is a day of rest here. 

Stores. Are. Closed. 
The shopping that you wanted to do and didn't have time for during the week (I still don't have slippers for these hardwood floors!) isn't possible. Your roommate drank the last of the OJ last night? Too bad, you'll have to wait until Monday for that Vitamin C. Need to make a bank deposit from Friday's check? You'll be broke until mañana, hombre.

Sundays make me crazy lazy because I have nothing else TO do but stroll the city and people watch, lay in bed and watch movies, or prepare my work for the week ahead. Even though it is extremely annoying at times, you have to take the good with the bad, and afterall, people do need to rest. Crazy Lazy Sundays...I've got a lot of them ahead of me. May as well enjoy them!

But, guess what is open on Sundays?
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Things I'm looking forward to in Spain:

I've made a small list of things I'll miss about the US. But there are so many things I'm looking forward to in the year(s) ahead.

1. Fiestas. Claras, cañas, and Spanish wine (or for the hard drinker in me...Vodka Negra). Staying out until daylight on Friday and Saturday nights dancing to my favorite Spanish songs, because that's just, what they do. Discotecas.
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The street after the New Year's Eve (nochevieja) fiesta.
2. Tapas. Small appetizers you eat with a drink in bars. The spanish word for lid. An old legend describes a King who put a piece of jamon over his drink when the wind blew through the bar. Now ham and other small appetizers are called tapas. And they are delicious. Tortilla de patatas. Croquettes. Aceitunas. Tostada con tomate. 
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From a tapas bar in Valladolid. Bread with sausage, cheese, and onions. Yum!
3. Siestas. In all reality, I won't take siestas everyday. Nor does any Spaniard I know. The always working American girl in me won't have time for that. But the fact that I COULD if I wanted to, and still not be socially labeled as an 'old lady', 'lazy youknowwhat', or a 'burnt out youngster' is a wonderful thing.

4. People watching. Seeing the old men and women in their Sunday best window shopping as they hold hands, and the little girls and boys dressed with bows in their hair pushing miniature baby buggies.
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Precious Cherub children at Christmas time looking at a Nativity
5. Transportation. Letting my feet take me wherever I need to go. Walking past old Spanish architecture, even a 900 year old cathedral on my way to meet a friend. Riding through the Spanish countryside, on two-lane roads, scenic land on all sides of me.
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Not the most scenic view, but still the Spanish countryside.
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Palencia
6. The language. A bit of a challenge for me, but still something I love. Castellano will be spoken to me, about me (hopefully good things) and written, all around me. Note: Stop signs say STOP. Weird, right?
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7. Soccer. Ahem, fútbol. I don't know all the rules, I can't play very well, but I love watching the Spaniards obsess over it, and the passion they have for their teams. This year, I'll have to become a loyal fan. But hmm...which team should I choose? ¡VAMOS!
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David Villa = a babe.
There is no list that could put into words everything that is so amazing about Spanish culture.

But this is a start to the list of the things to come in the next year of my life. I'm getting so excited!