Congratulations! You made it! School is winding down for winter break, and you are finishing up that last week you were pretty sure you wouldn’t make it to. But you did. And I’m proud of you.
It turns out that the days leading up to vacation are pretty much the same in Spain. I think it might be universal. Hey, we like our free time. Anyway, everyone here is in the holiday spirit. School here gets out on Thursday, and all the classrooms have that ‘I couldn’t care less’ feeling. It’s beautiful. I was stupid enough to think that the last two weeks would be blow off weeks, but oh no. No, my teacher loaded us up with work. I had six exams last week and one the week before that. I know it doesn’t sound too bad, but it’s different here. We don’t do worksheets or class exercises. The teacher comes in, lectures, gives us the homework or pages to study, and leaves. The learning itself is up to us. That means that we actually have to study to pass. When I say ‘study’ I mean four, five, six hours the night before, and an undetermined amount of time in the days leading up to the test. And this happens on a bi-weekly basis. It’s the best.
The world outside of school is gearing up for Christmas too. The lights in the streets are hung and there are speakers on the main commercial streets playing Christmas carols. It’s really nice because when you’re walking along a street (ok, this is the part where you imagine that you’re walking down a beautiful, narrow European street) you can hear the faint sound of Christmas music coming from far away. Don’t try to sing along, though, because they change all of the words to Spanish. Also, be careful of the cars, you have to press yourself up against a wall in order to let them pass. You don’t want to spend Christmas in the hospital do you? Didn’t think so.
Okay, imagining time over. Let’s get back to talking about me. I’ll be spending my first holiday season away from home this year. I don’t know how many people reading this have actually ever spent the holidays without their family before, but for those of you who haven’t I wouldn’t recommend it. If you do have to, though, you should definitely do it in a foreign country.
It’s really interesting to see all of the different traditions and stories that people have for the holidays here. For example, in Spain most families don’t have Santa Clause. They don’t even give presents on the 25th. Instead, on January sixth, the Three Magic Kings come and leave the presents. Unfortunately, they don’t come in through an air vent or anything as exciting as our dear Santa. The door will suffice for the kings, which personally I think is a waste of the magic mentioned in their title, but whatever.
The children still leave little goodies for the Kings to eat. I think that generally they leave cookies, but I’m not so sure. Whatever it is, though, I’m sure it’s delicious. I’m getting to try some really great traditional Spanish holiday food here. Mostly candy and sweets, which is all right by me. I’m a big fan of their ‘prestines’, which are a fried dough (different from the fair kind), folded and brushed with honey.
I’m sure that I’ll have the opportunity to try much more when we go to Grenada in the Sierra Nevadas next week for Christmas. They have a house there and my family goes every year to spend the holidays skiing and relaxing in the mountains. Score! I’m very, very excited and I promise to take lots of pictures.
I hope that everyone there has a wonderful Christmas (or Hanukkah to my fellow kinsman) and a very happy New Year. Please appreciate your families at this time and make sure to make a worthy New Years resolution. Wishing you all the best from merry ‘ol España.