Sunday, December 21, 2008

Belen Viviente

Ubrique's Belen Viviente (Living Nativity) was a huge success, and for me, an experience of a lifetime. I have never before witnessed an entire community come together to put together such an incredible Christmas display. Most people were out working at 8:00 am setting up structures and converting the Casco Antiguo (the historic part of town) into a scene straight from first century Bethlehem. Others trickled in throughout the day, and some just came to work the actual "event" which started around 6:00 pm and ended at 3:30 am. Regardless of arrival time, there were hundreds of people continually working to make this all come together, and it did indeed come together - flawlessly. Well, I guess I technically shouldn't say flawlessly. There was one glitch: Ubrique (yes, the entire town) lost electricity for about 2 hours, so most of the Belen Viviente was plagued by complete darkness for a while. Fortunately for me, I was working at the Census and and was surrounded by about 20 candles! We were the only station with light :-) Aside from this, however, the Belen Viviente was perfect. Not only beautifully constructed and carried out, but there were thousands of people from all over Spain (and from England, Germany, Argentina, etc) lining the streets. It truly was a sight to see. A Belen Viviente to spread Christmas cheer, bring people together in celebration, and to raise money for charity - could there be a better way to spend your Saturday night?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cosas de Navidad y El Belén Viviente

First semester grades were due yesterday afternoon. Grades are quite different in Spain than in the U.S., and instead of sending report cards out, parents come to school to talk to the teachers and get their child(s)'s grades. I guess you could compare it to parent-teacher confrences...with report cards thrown in the mix. To celebrate the close of the semester, and in preparation for Christmas, the Director (Antonio) invited all the teachers to an afternoon chocolate (i.e. "afternoon tea" if you will). All 30 or so of us got together for a light snack of churros with hot chocolate, followed by some home made mojitos, and topped off with an hour or so of chatting and singing Christmas carols (in Spanish of course). While it is well known that the Spanish really enjoy and know how to have a fiesta, it must also be noted that they are fabulous singers. Something about Spanish music just energizes anyone and everyone. It just warms you up inside and makes you want to get up and dance (especially after a few mojitos)... Each day I am realizing more and more that I truly am enamored with the Spanish way of life - and while I am going to miss my usual Colorado Christmas with my beloved parents, I am excited to experience something new.

Vale...ahora, tengo ganas de escribir en español, así, voy a hacerlo. Pero no os preocupéis, hay una traducción debajo.

I have the urge to write in Spanish, so, I am going to. But don’t worry, there is a translation below. :-)

Este año, como estoy viviendo en España, voy a participar en una costumbre española: el Belén Viviente. El Belén Viviente de Ubrique es famoso por Andalucia, y cada año más de 10,000 vienen a Ubrique para verlo. De verdad, es algo muy bonito. Este año, el Belén Viviente es por el sábado, el 20 de diciembre. Vamos a empezar a preparar por el Belén a las 8:00 por la mañana el sábado, y empezaré la obra a partir de las 8:00 por la noche, terminando a las 3:00 o 4:00 domingo por la mañana. Estoy emocionada quedar la noche entera participando en el Belén! Aunque la siguiente pagina de web esta escrito en español, merece la pena visitarla: También hay que ver el video de YouTube:

Since I am living in Spain this year, I thought I would participate in a truly Spanish tradition: a “living nativity.” Ubrique’s “living nativity” is famous throughout Andalucia, and every year, more than 10,000 people come to Ubrique to see it. It really is something beautiful. This year, the event will be held on Saturday, December 20th. We will be setting up and preparing for the event starting at 8:00 am Saturday morning, and will begin the “living nativity” around 8:00 pm, finishing around 3:00 or 4:00 am Sunday morning. I’m quite excited to make a night out of it…! Although the following webpage is written in Spanish, it is worth checking out (see above link). You also should check out the video of Ubrique’s “living nativity” on YouTube (see above link).

On a side note: the first link will take you to our main web page, and the top photo is a photo of the plaza del ayuntamiento and my house! You will see three red roofs in a row at the top of the photo, and I am in the middle, the top floor.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Venturing out of Ubrique

Every year, on the 6th of December, Spaniards celebrate Día de la Constitución (Constitution Day). It is a day to commemorate and celebrate the passage of the constitutional referendum of 1978, when the Spanish public voted in and approved the Spanish Constitution (Spain's movement towards a more democratic society after decades of rule under Franco's dictatorship). Depending on what day the 6th falls on, Spaniards usually end up getting several days off of work or school, and sometimes are fortunate enough to celebrate a long weekend. This year, Andalucians celebrated Día de la Constitución with an extended weekend from Friday, December 5 to Tuesday, December 9. Although there were some local festivities in celebration of the holiday, I decided to take the opportunity to travel to Copenhagen, Denmark to visit a friend.

While I couldn't be more in love with Ubrique, it does have one (and yes, only one) flaw: traveling to and from Ubrique to the next nearest airport (whether Sevilla, Jerez, or Malaga) is quite a challenge and an adventure in-and-of itself. For example, although my flight was not until Thursday morning in Malaga, I had to leave Wednesday afternoon at 3:00 pm in order to catch one of two daily buses that go from Ubrique to Malaga. Then of course, I had to spend the night in Malaga...then leave for Copenhagen in the morning. The same challenges awaited my return as well - I flew in on Tuesday afternoon, but not in time to catch the bus back to Ubrique. So, yet again, I had to spend the night in Malaga, and catch the 10 am bus home Wednesday. I might also mention that by car, Malaga is only 1 hour 45 minutes away. In is a full 4 hours.

However, once I arrived in Copenhagen, I didn't have much trouble getting around. There is a good metro system, but I chose to walk most everywhere (save money, get exercise, see the sights...). Copenhagen is a beautiful city, and quite different than anything I have ever seen. Several things stood out. First of all, I have never seen so many bike-riders in my life. Having gone to college in Portland, OR, one of the most progressive and environmentally friendly cities in the US, I never again thought I would be surprised to see someone commuting to work on their bike. But believe me, Copenhagen takes the trophie for this. Not only do they have designated bike lanes (with signals and everything), but they have the right-of-way. And yes, it is almost more dangerous to cross the bike lane, than run across a lane of traffic. It is quite an impressive site - especially since all the Danes ride with style as well. Who would have thought you could ride a bike in stilettos, fur coats, and/or flowing dresses? Well, now I know for a fact it is possible. Aside from the heavy bike traffic, Copenhagen has several other fascinating aspects. For instance, the architecture is incredible. There is a wonderful dichotomy of new/contemporary and old/traditional buildings lining the rivers, and surrounding beautiful, large town squares/plazas. Most of the older buildings are quite colorful, or constructed with brick and copper (a beautiful contrast!). Then, there is also a random "city" (more like an autonomous community) within Copenhagen, called Christiania. Apparently Christiania is not entirely governed by the Danish Monarchy, but instead has its own mini-government that allows the legal buying and selling of marijuana within the boundaries of the community. It is one of Copenhagen's most commonly visited tourist spots. While I did wander through the community, I didn't think it was anything too exciting. However, everyone in Copenhagen seems to love it. I suggest googling it if you are interested, it is neat to check out. Perhaps the oddest thing about Copenhagen has to do with their restrooms... There is absolutely no separation between the shower and the rest of the bathroom (toilet, sink, etc). As such, when you shower, you flood the entire bathroom. And when you aren't showering, and you use the toilet or sink, you are technically walking (in your filthy street shoes) in the shower. It is very random, and I've never quite seen anything like it. But hey, I have a new found appreciation for "normal" bathrooms with divisions. And last, but not least, it is true that all Danes are tall, slender and blonde. To be honest, I have never seen such an homogenous society. As Copenhagen is a fairly large city, it surprised me to see such little diversity. Upon talking to various people, however, I learned that Denmark has a very strict immigration policy, and that in general, does not want/accept immigrants too openly. While they truly are beautiful, and seemingly quite happy people -- they are a little "too perfect" and closed-up for me.

One of the 5 days I was in Copenhagen, my friend and I did venture across the Oresund bridge that goes from Copenhagen to Malmo, Sweden. We only spend about 5 or 6 hours in Sweden, but even in that short time, we were able to see a lot of Malmo. There are several castles, gardens, parks, mansions, and town squares that are just beautiful. And only about 20 minutes away in train from Copenhagen, it was a perfect day trip.

I enjoyed seeing two new countries, and am very fortunate to have had the opportunity. Yet, while Copenhagen and Malmo were both beautiful cities, it is good to be back in Ubrique. I feel I am home :-)

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving without Turkey?

I have celebrated two Thanksgiving Day's in Spain, and both have been quite unconventional and unforgettable.

Thanksgiving in Spain in 2006: In Fall 2006, I was studying and living in Granada when my roommate and I arrived home after our classes with the highest hopes/expectations that our host mom would have prepared a semi-traditional Thanksgiving meal for us. Instead, we ate nothing more than some fried eggs, a cup of noodle soup, and a few croquetas (fried meat in a batter). Not quite Thanksgiving...but what can you do? Since we were living with a host mom, we didn't have much control over the meals that were prepared. And we weren't about to complain that she failed to prepare correctly for a holiday that is strictly an American tradition and little heard of in Spain.

Thanksgiving in Spain in 2008: Thanksgiving this year was a little different. Arguably, a little more traditional than in 2006. As Thanksgiving is a day meant to bring friends and families together to give thanks, I decided it would be fun to have a little fiesta with my English and Spanish roommates, and all my new Spanish friends. My friend Hollie (also my delightful English roommate) and I decided to rent out a room in the bar below our house, prepare some traditional dishes, and invite some teachers from our schools, some women from our dance class, and the waiters in the bar. We planned the menu, reserved the room, and distributed invitations. Let me first say we weren't planning anything too extravagant; just a turkey, some cranberry sauce, and a pumpkin pie, and perhaps a couple things to munch on. However, this was probably the most memorable/difficult Thanksgiving I'll ever experience in my life.

First of all, while there are a few turkeys wandering around the countryside in Spain, you will be hard pressed to find any in the supermarkets or meat shops. I searched relentlessly for a turkey, but in the end I was unable to successfuly obtain one. There is one way to get a turkey, but it requires going to the country, finding a farmer, and asking if he wants to sell you one of his turkeys. If so, you can walk out of his farm with an extremely fresh turkey. The only problem there is that means I have to completely prepare the turkey (as in...behead, pluck the feathers, clean the get the idea). Anyone who knows me at all, knows that that isn't quite my idea of cooking. So, for the second Thanksgiving of my life, I went without a turkey. Second, Spaniards apparently do not eat cranberries. Over the past two months, I have noticed that there is no cranberry juice of any sort, but it didn't really sink in that there were not cranberries. And believe me, I searched high and low: the supermarkets, the fruit stands, the fresh food market, and I even asked around a few places in the next closest town. No one sells cranberries (or understands why on earth anyone would want to buy any). Needless to say, we did not serve any cranberry sauce. Thirdly, canned pumpkins aren't too common around here either. Nor is pie crust. In fact, neither exist. This made making pumpkin pie a little difficult. As such, I had to improvise, and decided to make some pumpkin bread instead. From scratch. Literally. I mashed up a pumpkin, estimated all the ingredients (since I don't have any measuring tools at all), threw it in a pan...and put it in the oven. Oh wait...back up. Did I mention we do not have an oven (or even a microwave). This makes cooking anything (such as bread) extremely difficult. But have no fear, Hollie and I pranced on over to our new neighbor and asked if she would mind if we used her oven for an hour or two to make bread. We went to put the bread in, and realized the oven was not in Fahrenheit or Celcius, but was instead in gas marks (numbering 1 to 10). I figured 4 was a pretty good number, so we left it to cook on gas mark 4 for a little over an hour. Surprisingly, it turned out amazing!! Despite everyone being fairly skeptical to try something as odd as pumpkin bread, everyone has asked me for the recipe. I'm not sure I want to divulge my secret tho... :-)

Overall, there was nothing traditional about this Thanksgiving feast hosted by me, an English girl, and a Spaniard. But it was the first Thanksgiving I've ever prepared all by myself, and I'm quite proud (my mom raised me well and her cooking skills must have been passed on to me). Our "feast" featured my amazing pumpkin bread, rice pudding, some soggy stuffing, two fresh salads, fruit salad, bread and cheese, olives, and an assortment of nuts. Not too bad considering all the glitches. However, not sure I want to do it again -- its a lot of work! In the event I'm ever in Spain for a third Thanksgiving (which hopefully I will be), I can at least say I know how to overcome adversity...haha.

That concludes my Thanksgiving story. Well, almost. Here goes the corny part: Thank you Mom and Dad for all your continued support, your guidance and love, and for providing me with this amazing opportunity. I LOVE YOU!!!!! Thanks to the rest of my family (Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, etc) for always being there, your generosity, and for your continued e-mails! I appreciate and love you all tons! Lastly, thanks to all my amazing friends who continue to keep in touch with me even though I'm thousands of miles away and hours ahead of you! Thanks for your friendship over the years, and for all you've done! All of you (parents, relatives, and friends) have made me who I am today, and I can't thank you enough! Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

El Mejor Senderismo Que Hay

Without a doubt in my mind, Ubrique serves as the base camp for some of the best hiking there is. In less than a month, I have walked (hiked) over 40 kilometers and seen some of the best views in all of Andalucia.

Every Sunday, I wake up at 7:00 am, get dressed, throw a few essential items in my backpack and head out. At 7:45 am, I meet up at a bar with my fellow hiking buddies (once again, a "bar" is a "cafe") for some juice or hot chocolate. At exactly 8:00, we begin our journey. My first Sunday hike took me through the Sierra de Ubrique to the start of the Ubrique River. Along the way, we searched for "setas comestibles" (edible mushrooms) and "esparagos" (esparagus), all of which are quite prevalent in the surrounding mountains. After 6 hours of walking, and some 24 kilometers later, we had collected quite an assortment, and at 21 years of age, I officially (and sort of willingly) tried my first mushroom and my first esparagus tortilla. While I love esparagus tortilla, I must say I was not at all impressed by the mushroom (which came as no surprise...after all, it is a fungus).

My second Sunday hike took to me to Benaocaz, up/along the Sierra de Caillo (and to the highest point in all of Cadiz), and down to Villaluengo. While this only amounted to about 14 kilometers of walking, it took over 7.5 hours and was much more difficult (nothing but climbing straight up) than the previous week's hike. However, it was well worth the price, as from the top of the Sierra de Caillo, you can see almost the entire province -- all the way to the Atlantic.

So while most people view weekends as time to sleep in, relax, sit down, and watch t.v., I continue to think of them as wonderful opportunities to work up a sweat and stay busy while exploring the great outdoors and the hidden treasures of the Pueblos Blancos. But don't worry, I also go for mini hikes most every Wednesday too, so I do work during the week as well. :-)

Friday, November 7, 2008

An Ancient Gem in the Sierra de Ubrique

Many people researching Ubrique on the internet might find a quaint little town with white-washed buildings situated in a small valley surrounded by mountains and natural parks. Perhaps they might see that Ubrique has a history of a booming leather industry, and has an abundance of leather shops and factories where people all over the world come to buy their leather goods. Aside from an hour or two of shopping and walking through the town center, most people would assume there is not much else to do here. Ubrique is by no means a tourist destination (which is why I absolutely LOVE it), but we do get the occassional load of tourists who come for the day to shop, and then promptly return to the bus station to catch the next bus out of town. I can't help but think what they are missing out on. Anyone who thinks Ubrique is lacking in the entertainment/things-to-do arena is sadly mistaking.

Every Wednesday, a group of teachers from Las Cumbres (a bilingual institute -- or the equivalent of a middle-high school in the US) set out for a hike. And every week, its a new location. This past Wednesday's hike took me to one of Ubrique's most amazing secrets. Only about an hours hike (and vertical climb...) from the center of Ubrique, in Salto de la Mora, lie the ruins of the ancient town of Ocuris, a strategic Roman settlement that dates back to the 2nd century. After numerous battles throughout history, between Romans, Celts, and Muslims, the town was eventually abandoned after the Barbarian invasions. Abandoned, but not lost. It remains one of the most well preserved ancient Roman settlements in all of Andalucia - and I had the fortune to hike up to the ruins last Wednesday afternoon. There are several different ruins spread out over the mountain - various homes, bathing stations, and other buildings; however, the most impressive and well preserved building is the Columbario Mausoleum, or the site where the dead were cremated. The site is simply awe-inspiring.

It is absolutely amazing to be living in Ubrique, so close to thousands of years of history. And only an hours walk away, I can visit the ruins at my leisure. Situated at the top of the mountain, you have views of all Ubrique, and of the closest town (Benaocaz), and if you sit still for just a few minutes, you will quickly find yourself surrounded by dozens of goats. Its granduer is simply unexplainable, but the ancient city of Ocuris is definitely one of the most incredible sights I have ever seen. ...If only the tourists passing through knew what they were missing out on. But then again, perhaps that is part of its splendor - its our own little gem and well-kept secret.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


I've discovered you can learn alot about your own culture by living in a different one. For example, I honestly cannot say that I knew the history of Halloween, the story of the Jack-O-Lantern, or any such things until I had to research the holiday to explain it to my students here in Ubrique. For the most part, Halloween is only celebrated in the United States and the United Kingdom, and was originally brought to the US by Irish immigrants in the mid 1800s. However, as the phenomenon of globalization continues to spread, it is being celebrated in more and more locations -- including Ubrique, Spain. Go figure.

I walked into school on October 31st wearing a lovely little costume. I was a "demonia" (a devil). Before you jump to conclusions, I would just like to point out that there are not a lot of costume options here, so you can't be picky. I walked in expecting a few of the English teachers to be dressed up, but to my surprise not only were a couple of teachers dressed up, but so were a vast number of students! We spent the day in classes listening to spooky Halloween music, drawing pumpkins and bats, talking about the history of Halloween, and reading scary stories. The second grade went around to every class and performed a dance to "The Monster Mash," and fourth grade went around giving out "dulces y caramelos" to their fellow students. The best news is that the celebration did not stop when school let out. Despite hours of cold rain, around 30 of my students came to my piso to trick-or-treat (or "truco o trato"). I guess that is one of the positive (or negative...) aspects to living on the plaza -- everyone knows where you live. My housemates and I were quite happy with the number of trick-or-treaters, and I'm happy to report that my students really seem to like this unusual holiday of ours. :-) Overall, it was a very happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Let's Review, Shall We?

October 22: Bachata y Merengue
Well, I am a bit behind with my blog. So pardon the long post, but I am going to combine a few of the latest events. Nothing too exciting going on this week. I've been working a lot of hours at school, and also been bringing some work home with me (halloween preparations, etc). Outside of school, I'm keeping busy by going to dance class three tims a week. :-) Yes, you read that correctly. The girl who never ever dances is finally taking dance lessons...and LOVING it! I've been going for the entire month, and am actually learning pretty quickly. I can now say with confidence that I can dance the Bachata and Merengue. I've completely fallen in love with the music and I'm now even one of those nerds that practices infront of my mirror. But that is only temporary...until I find my Spanish soulmate to dance with. Other than school and dance, I spend most of my time out in the plaza or in the bars (which are more like cafes -- just for clarification). The time here has been going really quickly...and I wish it would slow down! It is hard to believe I have already been here almost a full month. Good news is, I have 8 more to look forward too!

Okay, now onto other things:

October 17: Fiesta en la Calle
Spaniards are notorious for being night owls. The fun doesn't really start until 1 or 2 am, right? I know this, and I've lived this. But despite the fact that I lived in Granada for 4 months in 2006, and have been in Ubrique just shy of a month, I still don't have the Spanish routine down. A few of the auxiliars and I thought we would try to have a true Spanish weekend, but were not entirely successful:

9:30 pm - Ate dinner
11:30 pm - Hit the bars
12:30 am - Wander around to waste some time
1:30 am - Return to bars
3:00 am - Head to Pentagono (a dance club)
3:05 am - Absolutely no one at Pentagono
3:15 am - Return to bars and ask why no one is at the dance club. The answer: "Its too early, wait till 4:00 am". (Riiiiighht...3:30...too early...why didn't I think of that?!?!)
4:30 am - Still at bar...but beyond tired.
5:00 am - Return home, hit the bed.

Maybe next weekend we will take part in the siesta (aka...sleep before we go out in order to survive the night). Nevertheless, it was quite fun looking like idiots as we wandered around town trying to figure out where all the people were. And although we met plenty of unusual characters, I came across some of my students' parents (wonderful people!), and had some enjoyable, lengthy conversations with them...and even got a few free drinks (water and coke, but still, with this exchange rate, each saved euro is fabulous!).

October 11-12: El Campo
Not only do I despise bugs with a passion, but I'm completely terrified of spiders...and not too fond of gargantuan beatles (which seem to be quite common out in the campo [countryside] of Ubrique). Nevertheless, there is nothing I love more than being outside, and I'm not afraid to get dirty. This weekend I spent three wonderful days (holiday on Monday) out in the country at a friend's ranch. The ranch, complete with a flock of sheep, a pregnant pony, and 30+ dogs (8 of which were brand new puppies), definitely allows one to live a little more on the "wild" side. But that is only where the story starts. After kickin it at the ranch for a while, we headed out to canoe/kayak around the nearest lake (which is surprisingly very large). After canoeing for a couple of hours, we returned to the ranch for almuerzo (lunch). After almuerzo, we ventured to a nearby pueblo, Algars, to go to the stables. We each took a horse, and ventured off into the sunset. ...You think I'm being dramatic, but it is entirely true... I've never really ridden a horse before, or really had the urge to do so, but I have completely fallen in love with it. Perla (mi caballo) was delightful: we trotted a little, galloped a lot, and meandered around while enjoying the amazing scenery. After about 2 hours of riding around, we returned to the stables, headed to the ranch to pick up our things, and went back to Ubrique. I couldn't have asked for a better weekened, and I hope this is just a taste of the many weekends to come.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

La Cruz de Tajo

Ubrique is situated directly in the mountains, which means that there is plenty to do and to see, and trails that run for miles (well, I should say kilometers) in every direction. However, last week, I of course wound up going for a hike up the only mountain and to the only spot without a trail to follow. I ventured up to the Cruz de Tajo. The Cruz (cross) is emblematic of Ubrique, and it is quite impressive as it sits directly atop a sheer rock drop off towering over town.

One of my students had said she had seen people hiking up there before, so a coworker and I decided if others could do it, we could too. So we embarked on what we thought would be a normal hike along a normal trail. To our suprise, the trail ended almost immediately, and we found ourselves among boulders twice our size, random mountain cacti, and millions of prickly shrubs. Nevertheless, it did not appear to be anything too horribly difficult or dangerous. As we continued to scale the mountain, however, it only got steeper and more difficult. At one point, we decided it was not worth the risk, but when we careflly turned ourselves around, two thoughts went through my head: (1) I already made it this far...what's another few hundred feet? and (2) What the heck am I thinking, I can't get down from here! So of course, if it is too scary to go back down, you just continue going up...right?

After almost 2 hours of complete vertical rock climbing (not hiking...), we made it to the Cruz (cross). It was well worth it. You can see for miles - Ubrique, other pueblos blancos, mountains, rolling hills, olive groves, etc. It is absolutely gorgeous, and I think everyone that comes to Ubrique should scale the mountain and make the journey up to the Cruz. It is not your normal everyday hike. It pushes the limits, yes, but once you make it to the top (and if you ignore the fact that you have to go back down), the reward is incredible. I plan to venture up at least one more time this fall/winter before the snakes return (we were lucky, we only encountered one), but will probably go a little more prepared...mentally and physically. And of course, should anyone want to come and visit me, I will be happy to be your local hiking guide. :-)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Quite Content

As of today, Friday October 3rd, I have officially been in Ubrique for one week. I am entirely unpacked and all settled in, and Ubrique already feels like home. I love my "piso" (flat) and my room (especially since it has a balcony overlooking the plaza).

While I have not had the opportunity to teach a class yet, I have been able to attend various classes and assist the teachers each day. I found out today that I will be teaching all grades, which includes kids from 3 to 12 years old. Undoubtedly, I have a challenge ahead of me...but I think it will be quite fun and rewarding. I think all the kids are wonderful, and so far, really seem to like me - especially the 10 year old boys who remind me daily "you very beautiful (pronounced boootiful) woman." One of my classes already gave me a welcome poster. Talk about adorable! :-) Bottom line: The kids are great and this is going to be a fun year.

And one of the best things about Ubrique (and its population of 18,000) is that the teachers and kids alike all know me, and we frequently run into each other. It is such a great feeling when the kids say "Hello Ashley" or "Bye Bye" when I see them in the streets or the Plaza. They quite often come running to me, yelling at their parents to come meet the "maestra nueva de ingles" (new English teacher). I am already quite attached to the town, the people, and the kids. If I love it this much after only one week, I'm a little concerned that after 9 months, I wont be coming home... I might just have to buy a flat, become an English teacher, and bribe my parents and friends to come live in Spain with me.

To bring this to a close, I would like to add just one, very interesting, little tid-bit. A bird flew into me today. Yes, you read that correctly. I got hit by a bird. What can I say? It all happened quite quickly. I was simply minding my own business, walking across the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, looked at the birds playing in the fountain about 30 feet from me. Then, all of sudden, something spooked them. No big deal, 5 out of 6 of the birds flew in a hustle right in front of me. However, one apparently miscalculated my position, and ended up flying right into the side of my face, hit my nose, then left my "bubble" with a couple pieces of my hair. I didnt quite know what to think. Nor did the witnesses (a few old gentlemen sitting in the plaza) know what to say. Anyway, I am quite honored to add that to my list of interesting events in my life. And I would be curious to know how many people can honestly say they have been hit by a bird while walking... Anyone? I must be very special...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Estoy Aqui Finalmente!

Well, I finally made it to Ubrique and it is absolutely everything I had imagined it would be - beautiful, serene, and surrounded by mountains! The people are amazing - so friendly and happy! I am currently living in the parte antigua (historic district), but the entire town is pretty ancient and rich with history. I am able to see the entire Pueblo from the kitchen window, and my bedroom overlooks la plaza del ayuntamiento and the beautiful mountains (see pic below for my exact view).
While I have already done a little exploring, I definitely plan on doing more! In fact, Fernando (who I am staying with temporarily), had to leave Ubrique this afternoon to visit an Uncle in Huelva (3 hours away). As such, I get the entier flat to myself for the next two nights, which leaves plenty of time for exploring! :-)
Well, that's all for now! Bye!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

On my way! Oh, the joys of travelling...

Well, I am writing this post somewhere between Terminal A and Terminal B in the Philadelphia International Airport around 1 pm (EST). I not-so-happily woke up at 3:30 am this morning, after finishing packing around midnight, and waved good bye to Denver. I personally think I should win some kind of an award for always packing mere hours before my departure...and for (unintentionally) continually pushing the weight limitations....and I think my parents would agree. :-) To my credit, though, I had started packing a few days before, but its the odds and ends that kind of throw efficiency (and weight limits) out the window. I happily checked two bags, weighing 50 lbs and 52 lbs, and carried on two carry-ons. Needless to say, I have a challenge awaiting me when I arrive in Madrid. I'll probably make a few people laugh as I struggle through the airport with 9 months worth of stuff, trying to clear customs and find my connecting flight to Jerez in less than an hour's time. I'm looking forward to it...

Once I get to the airport in Jerez, I have to find a way to get to the actual city (Jerez de la Frontera). Most likely there is an airport shuttle bus (similar to the one in Granada). Then, I *think* I can catch a bus to Ubrique. The online bus schedules are none too clear, so we will see what happens there. When (and if I am able) to get to Ubrique, I will have to find my way to some internet cafe and call the teacher who is so kindly allowing me to rent out a room until I find a permanent place to stay. Wish me luck there, too....I can't wait to lug all my luggage up some narrow, steep, cobble-stone streets as I search for my new residence.

Don't get me wrong, I am quite excited (thrilled, actually) to be several hours into my journey across the Atlantic. And all these uncertainties and ambiguities add a bit of pizazz. However, I wouldn't be opposed to having a little more insight into things. But what the heck, its an adventure of a lifetime, right?! And what fun would it be to tell you guys that everything is flawlessly coordinated and everything is going according to plan?! I would much prefer to write about some crazy adventure with a few glitches here and there. So long as I arrive safely and with all of my belongings, I'm pretty much up for anything!

Next time I write, I will be in Ubrique (or so I hope...haha)! So talk to you then! Miss you all already!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Prelude to Ubrique

In exactly two weeks I will be boarding a plane headed to Madrid, and will ultimately end up in Ubrique (Cadiz), Spain. Ubrique is a small town of about 18,000 in the province of Cadiz. It is one of the most beautiful "pueblos blancos" (white towns) in Southern Spain (Andalucia), and is situated at the foot of the Sierra de Ubrique. This small pueblo will be my home for the next 8 1/2 months as I will be teaching English at CEIP Fernando Gavilan (primary school). At the end of the school year (when my job expires), I will be trekking 800 km across Northern Spain for approximately 22 days following the ancient "Camino de Santiago." I am looking forward to the challenge, the beautiful scenery, and the time to reflect on and ponder the next steps of my life (law school?). I am thrilled to be moving to Spain, and am excited to share my adventures with all of you! Please stay tuned, and keep in touch!

For a panoramic view of Ubrique, visit...