In less than 24 hours I will be leaving Spain for Navidad and flying over the Atlantic, home to Florida.

All things I have missed about home will be waiting for me when I return, and I couldn't be more excited!
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The Florida sunset on Siesta Key beach

Things I will be indulging in during the next 2 weeks:

My bed

Carpeted Floors

Siesta Key beach

Going shopping on a Sunday or during the hours of 2pm-5pm

Frozen yogurt with do-it-yourself toppings

A dryer

Redbox DVDs

Driving

The Target dollar-spot

Degrees in Fahrenheit  

Being barefoot and not being judged

My mom's home cooking

And most of all...MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS that I have missed so much while being across the world thinking about them constantly.
My bags are packed and I'm ready to fly home. Santa Clause has a new name this year: Papa Noel to my family because he is bringing lots of Spanish goodies (in my suitcase).

¡Hasta mañana, Florida!
 
 
I have always loved Halloween. My favorite costume when I was a little girl was Cleopatra, and I still remember getting to wear the black eyeliner for the first time. I loved bobbing for apples, walking around the neighborhood with friends, and oh yeah, I guess I liked getting free candy, too.

For the Halloween puente (literal translation: bridge, but it's the name for a break from school here in Spain) I headed to another country, Portugal to be exact. More on that later. But Halloween was still going on here in Spain. 

Halloween is said to have started in Ireland. But I have always thought of it as an All-American holiday. Celebrating outside of the traditions I know made me a bit nervous.
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A bakery decorated for Halloween with lots of treats.
But in recent years, the Spanish have caught on to how much fun we Americans are having around this time of year, and Halloween has hit Spain with a BOO!

Here it is a holiday for children, unless you are in a big city where there will be plenty of nightlife and costume parties at local bars. The children dress up in costumes and trick-or-treat a.k.a. Truco Trato around the small neighborhoods and apartment buildings. Teenagers (as my students informed me) throw eggs at houses that don't give them candy. ¿Que educada, verdad? 

The grand event of the weekend and the true holiday behind the puente is El Día de Todos los Santos, All Saint's Day. Families visit their deceased loved ones and place exquisite flower arrangements on their graves for this special day of rememberance. 

Forget pumpkin pie, the typical foods here during this holiday are Huesos de los Santos and Buñuelos. Deserts that you can find in any local Pastelaria. 
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Huesos de los Santos, Saint's Bones. I wasn't a huge fan of the marzipan texture with chocolate coating, but they are very popular with the Spanish!
All over the world, Halloween is celebrated differently. In Portugal, there were no decorations in the streets, no special foods, and few shops that sold costumes. Maybe next year I will find out how it is celebrated in another country!

In my home in Florida on Halloween, we had a steady stream of trick-or-treaters this year. Creating a new tradition with my family from across the ocean, I Skyped live as the door bell was being rung in my house. My mom held my floating-head-of-a-computer-screen in her hands as she handed the kids their candy, and we all laughed so hard. Somehow each time it got funnier.

With the new customs I've learned about, new foods I've tasted, and new traditions I've made with family...I have to say, I still love Halloween!
 
 
Miguel de Cervantes, the Spanish author of Don Quixote, lived here in Valladolid for about 4 years.

In the novel, Don Quixote wants to change the world. With a strange vision on the world around him, he sets out on an adventure. He wants to right all the wrongs.
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Don Quixote in Benavente
While I can't relate to his strange vision on windmills looking like giant animals, I can relate a little bit to him wanting to make everything better.

This week has been one of the most difficult in my life.

I wish I could say I have been busy with traveling and enjoying my Spanish life. Instead, life has decided to throw me a couple of hardships.

No matter where you are, bad things can happen. The world doesn't stop turning because you are abroad.

After talking with friends and pushing through terrible times, I've realized...I only have two feet. I can only walk forward with what I've got and do the best with what challenges have come my way. It is impossible to make everything better, and some things are just out of your control. 
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Giving up is the easiest decision possible.

But losing faith, losing hope, and leaving the journey that I've begun here in Spain by giving up is something that I would regret. Even through the hardest times, you have to look forward.

I walk by the now museum, Casa de Cervantes, almost every day. The beauty of the museum and the garden next to it always strikes me. 

"He who loses wealth loses much; he who loses a friend loses more; but he that loses his courage loses all." -Cervantes
 
 
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After being back in Spain for a few weeks now, I have become settled into my new vida
The week has been filled with errands of a foreigner. I have mastered the final paperwork for my visa, received a spanish identification number, opened a bank account, and learned how to use the city bus system. All in another language. Eh....¿Como?

With each walk to the extranjeros office, trip on the bus, or walk to the supermarket, I pass things that make me remember the reason I am here.

It's the little things that I forgot about when I was gone that add to the reason of why I love this place so much.
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The noise from the crosswalks as you're crossing the street.

The little kids on the streets trying to get their mother's attention yelling "Mama, mama!" in the most urgent way.

The jingle for Mercadona

The peacocks walking around like they own the park, Campo Grande.
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The yellow tint of street lights at night.

The life in the street, no matter the day or time.

English spoken to me by Spaniards. "I am from Espain. He went to the esoccer match and left because he was very boring."

The awkward moment when you go in for a handshake as an American and then get kissed on the cheek, twice. Dos besos.

The Camino de Santiago seashells placed around the city.
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The thought has crossed my mind this week of "What the hell am I doing here?". 

But, with every new day that passes, I am finding something that I continue to love about Spain.

And each time that same thought comes to mind, I know that I can just open my eyes and ears to all the wonderful things around me and remember that sometimes it is the little things that mean the most.
 
 

The things I'll be missing in the USA

As I prepare for the move, I have been spending the summer working hard, but trying to enjoy every moment of what I'll no longer have in the year ahead of me.

Family and friends are absolutely at the top of the list. There is nothing like spending time with the people you love.

But the diva inside of me is going to have a long list of things I'll be missing at home.
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1. Shopping. Yes, european fashion is high-quality and I am certain my wardrobe will gain some amazing advantages through living abroad, but clothes aside, how am I going to live without the dollar spot at Target? The cheap earrings at Forever 21? And Macy's shoe department!? In addition, I love the convenience of shopping here, jumping in my car and heading to Tar-jhay when I need something. In Spain, one stop shopping becomes seven or eight stop shopping. I will need to take a bus to the mall, and any odds and ends product I'll need will be bought at a specialty store. No such thing as Wal-Mart, Target, or Publix.
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2. Country music. Sometimes, nothing excites the southern girl inside of me like hearing the first notes of "Friends in Low Places" and blasting Garth Brooks with my windows down in the car. My I-pod will be properly loaded before I go, so the radio-up-windows-down routine may just be changed to a singing-on-the-street-having-Spaniards-looking-at-me-like-I'm-crazy one.  
3. My Bed. My parents never did a 180 with my room when I moved out and turned it into a home gym or office...so my bed, is still, MY bed. It is large, and fluffy, and has a perfect imprint of where I lay. I've lived in many places and been in many other beds aside from my own (...that sounds wrong), but there is nothing like the cloud of perfection that is MY bed. 
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4. Food. Sushi. Frozen Yogurt. Chick-fil-a. In Spain, the food isn't necessarily limited, but it is different. To-go is nonexistent, and ingredients in even familiar foods are not the same. Different meat in hamburgers, different cheeses on top. Ask a Spaniard if they know how to make Macaroni and Cheese. They will say "Of course!" proceeding to make you noodles, with cheese, and tomatoes. Not the same. 
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Maybe all of these things that I'll miss seem, superficial. Afterall, I'm moving abroad! I'm living the dream! 

But I know that in moments, I will be sad. I will miss America. 

Those days when I'll want to curl up with some to-go food in MY bed listening to Garth Brooks, I'll think of how lucky I am to have this opportunity, and how amazing friends, family, food, and dollar spots are waiting for me back in America. 

What would you miss if you were away from home for a long time? What makes a house a home to you?