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!
 
 
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
 
 
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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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.
 
 
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10 years ago today, I was in school when we turned on the TVs to see the towers fall. 

Being abroad today has taught me that the whole world was affected by that September day. Two of my students here in Spain (doctors who are taking private English lessons) saw today's date and offered the information of how one of them was in the operating room and had to stop when he heard the news of the attacks. The other had closed her office to pick up her kids in fear of what was happening.

Here, March 11th is another day of remembrance, a day my simple American mind knew nothing about before coming to Spain. Attacks on the Madrid subway system killed closed to 200 people in 2004. Another tragedy, just 911 days after 9/11, that struck a nation.
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Madrid Bombings Monument that tunnels light into an underground memorial
Now that 10 years have passed, today has become a day of unity.

In hope that even one good thing can come from all the bad, let us remember exactly how much love and unity is necessary in the world. Across the world from each other, or even living under the same roof, we should be united in love; united as nations, and united as people. 
 
 
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Today marks one week back in Spain. I have been the busiest little española with a week full of excitement and settling into my new casa.

Meeting families for private English classes, getting ready for school, learning the bus routes around the city, helping other Americans set up with phones and apartments, nightly fiestas in the peña, and attending my very first fútbol game are only a touch on the non-stop week that has flown by. 

One of the great things I experienced this week are LAS FERIAS.
Whether you call it the carnival, the fair, or the fan fair; Spain knows how to do it right.

The county fair back home is something I always look forward to. I found a ton of similarities in our fairs and the spanish fairs.
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There are crazy flip you up-side down and make you scream attractions every few feet.
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The guys here still want to win prizes for their girlfriends.
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And there are rides that are fun no matter what age you are, or where you live.
But there are also some very unique rides, games, and gastronomy to a Spanish fair that you won't find in the US.
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All vendors have full liquor bars, or specific stands sell special drinks.
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Knock down 3 bottles of wine, win a ham!
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Churros dipped in chocolate, or filled with chocolate. It took a lot of strength not to buy one of these!
If there is one memory I'm leaving with, it is my ride on the Rodeo ride, the toro loco (crazy bull...and that it is!) as La Whitney calls it. Sit on the bull and try to hold on while it jerks you in every direction possible. 

Amidst trying to hold your dress down, you'll be falling on top of small children, each other, and trying to get back up on the bull before the ride is over. I'm pretty certain the worker on the ride had never heard so many American screams of "Oh my God!" before in his life.

America, take notes: Best. Ride. Ever.

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I'll be back again to conquer you toro loco, in pants next time instead of a dress.
 
 
The second I touched down on Spanish soil early Friday morning, a smile came across my face. 

Looking out the window on the train ride to Valladolid was something I had been looking forward to. Seeing the Spanish countryside around me was beautiful, peaceful, and made me feel like I was back home (away from home). Hearing the Spanish spoken around me was music to my ears.
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Now, I am all settled in my new piso, which I love. I have been participating in the fiestas of Valladolid this week and am the member of a peña, also something that has been so amazing. More on that later.

I have been eating new foods and drinking new drinks. My new favorite is Lorencito. Half sprite, half white wine. And I've been speaking Spanish more than I knew I could. 
This week I have started private English classes with some very kind families who have been eager to show me around the city they love so much. In just a week or so, I'll begin teaching in the high school. 

I don't think the smile that came across me when I arrived is ever going to go away!
 
 
All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go.
(I feel a song coming on...)

Today is the day I've been staring at on my calendar for a long time now.

If there is one thing I can say about the packing/leaving process, it is that traveling to Europe is not as glamourous, or simple, as it sounds.

I have changed my 'live out of one bag' aspirations the past few weeks into being an absolute hoarder. I've been collecting items that I know I won't find in Spain. Anti-persperant deodorants, specific toothpastes, mixes for cooking, vitamins, and things that are just generally cheaper in the US to save myself some money.
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Switched that Colgate for Crest last week after a trip to the dentist...number 1 recommended!
In addition to that, I can't bear to part with any of my wardrobe. Forget looking like a European! Sometimes I am going to want my college hoodie and my sweatpants. (Go knights!)

I also worked up quite a sweat last night packing, stepping on suitcases and laying on them to zip them shut. I think I will need some sort of spanish crow bar to open up one of them, it is zipped so tightly, clothes and items ready to explode out of it.
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I don't even remember what I packed in these giants.
And I can guarantee after the 12 hour travel time, in Madrid, I will need do some freshening up before I greet that new Spanish air. Madrid Barajas bathroom teeth brushing is going to get me some weird looks, but it's going to happen people.

There is going to be a non-glam lifestyle in a lot of what is to come this year for me. 
Ups and downs, messes, sadness and tears. I'll miss this room I'm sitting in now, with the familiar all around me. I'll miss being able to hug my family and sit in the living room with them whenever I want to. I'll miss home, there is no doubt in my mind.

But there will be happiness in so much more of what is to come. Whatever happens from this day, September 1st, forward, I will enjoy with an open heart, a huge smile, and satisfaction that I worked so hard to get where I want to be.