Friday, October 29, 2010

jappy jalloween

I keep making weird foods here. This one felt appropriate for Halloween because it was inspired by a classic of Adelaide, South Australia known as the AB, which stands for - warning, totally gross - AfterBirth. The original AB consists of Aussie chips, gyro meat and the sauce trio of tzatziki, barbeque and ketchup. The AB "a la bilbaína" I made today was fried potatoes, chicken, ketchup and a garlic-cream-mayonnaise sauce. Completely creepy, completely Halloween-appropriate and completely delicious.

"But what about Laudio," you are surely wondering. "What in the world are those crazy kids at IES Laudio BHI up to?" Well, this weekend being the turbo-American cultural event that is Halloween, my class activities this week were all related to the spooky holiday. By the end this meant kids playing Halloween Bingo, doing wordsearches and competing for Real American Candy Corn.

We also took the opportunity to practice some English pronunciation with Halloween words. Some of the students surprised me with their ability to mimic a southern drawl: I got quite a few Basque kids saying back to me, "VAYUM-pawr." I don't even say "VAYUM-pawr." Awesome.

Incidentally, none of these were the kid who came up to me before class with a flier from a CAROLINA MUDCATS GAME (the Mudcats are Raleigh's local baseball team, and I use the term "baseball team" loosely because they are terrible). And a target from a turkey shoot. I asked him, "are you kidding me??!?", but he was not. As it turns out, he stayed with a family in Raleigh, of all places, to improve his English. Go figure.

I'm gonna set my feet on southern soil and breathe that southern air.

I got my tickets for Christmas vacation this week - I'm coming home December 19th, then staying in Raleigh until January 3, when I leave with my mom for a weeklong (mostly) business trip to Germany and Italy.

And if anyone wants to hang out in Atlanta on December 17th, I'm wide open - I get in the evening before for a wedding on the 18th. Any recommendations for things to do/places to eat in ATL?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Silk Road Lentil Soup

Not many of you (or indeed any of you who are from outside NC) will remember this, but awhile ago there was a restaurant/tea house in Chapel Hill called Silk Road. It was a fantastic little Turkish place. Unfortunately, it had a terrible business model: cheap, good food + comfy couches + college town = lots of people who come in, buy one thing and stay forever, and about ten years ago it finally closed for good.

They were known for their Turkish desserts and wide tea selection, but the flavor that still transports me back to Silk Road is red lentil soup - theirs is still the best I've ever tried. Stuck at home with a cold, some red lentils and a serious craving for comfort food, I used up my red lentils in this homage (and I have to say, it's pretty close, although I reduced the onions in the recipe because the one I made had too many).

Silk Road Red Lentil Soup (serves 2 hungry people, or 4 starter cups)

1 cup red lentils
4 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 lg onion (chopped)
5 cloves garlic (minced)
3 tbsp olive oil
juice of 1 lemon

bring stock to a boil. add red lentils. Cover, then cook on meduim-low about 20 minutes. In a separate pan, heat olive oil, then add onion and garlic. Cook until onions translucent. Add onions, garlic and cumin to lentils. Stir, cook until desired texture (about 5 mins for me - try not to cook the lentils too long as they lose their texture pretty easily and it becomes an exotic split pea-type soup.). Stir in lemon juice just before serving.

(Recipe adapted from here.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

these kids put the "loud" in Laudio (if you pronounce it right).

My first day of "real" classes was yesterday, and for the most part it went really well. I had a food-related storytelling activity put together for them (fact: one of their stories started out, "Hello, I'm Lady Gaga" and concluded with a dissatisfied Lady Gaga marching into the kitchen - her salmon was raw - only to discover the chef was Barack Obama, whom she then, as the student put it, kicked "in the bottom"). The activity went really well in 90 of my approximately 92 classes (another fact: this number may be slightly exaggerated), but two of them were totally out of control.

When I was in high school, my favorite teacher, Ms. Greenwalt, had an amazing trick for students who were not paying attention in class. She would walk up to their desk and grin at them until they either looked up and got embarrassed or another student yelled at them to shut up/look up and they got embarrassed.

Yet another fact: this only works when less than 50% of the class is not paying attention. Ai ama.

However, as I said before, most of my classes were both manageable and fun and most of my students are awesome. In one of my classes I taught them the term "pork loin" (I swear, one of them is going to visit England and be SO HAPPY their teacher Kata taught them that one). Then they taught me the Basque for "pork loin." Actually, that is not true. None of us knew the Basque for "pork loin," so one of the girls looked it up in the dictionary and we all learned that too (see below).

Euskera of the Day:
Ai ama. "Good gravy" (rough translation). More like "madre mia."
Azpizun or (much funnier!) solomotxo. "Pork loin."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

hit me, baby, one more time

That's right, two posts in one day!

This morning I woke up with the beginnings of a cold and it was raining and chilly outside, so of course I went out to the outdoor plant market by the river. My friend Marti (you'll know her from such posts as the last one), with all her legit cooking materials, inspired me to get herb plants, so early cold symptoms and all it was off to the market I trotted. I got these guys:

Their names are Antxon and Patxi, and the wire contraption you see is so they stay in place on my slanted windowsill. If you're interested in buying any of their brothers, they were €1.50 each. Score.

On my way back from the river saw a "Tastes of the World" tent and went in. "Random Whatever of the World" would have been a more accurate name, and it was awesome. I wonder if anyone has ever thought to himself, "Now let's see, I need to buy some dried beans, new age crystals, earrings, cheese, sardines, a Communist T-shirt, and maybe an empanada or two." That guy would be so happy there. Anyway, I bought some red lentils. I have no idea how to prepare them, but I love lentils and the color coral so that was really bound to happen one way or another.

foodwise, it is just another animal.

(peppers a friend ordered)

I stayed Thursday-Saturday afternoon this week with my friend Marti (see "Blank Palate" in "Blogs I'm Reading") in Donostia-San Sebastian. We mostly just hung out, cooked, ate, went to a couple restaurants and ate some more, and I realized a couple things.

1) that city EARNS its reputation for having a) the best food and b) the most expensive food. There you're lucky to get a legit one for under €3; here in Bilbao, anything over €1.60 is highway robbery. You'll possibly pay €2 here if you want a culinary foam (you probably don't, you trendy thing. I'm still a sucker for them.). Of course, theirs are usually a bit more inventive (i.e., plated, with maybe some balsamic drizzle or something), whereas here what you get is typically a treat on a piece of bread, period. Different ballpark.

(solomillo "a lo pobre": roasted red pepper sauce, sea salt, potato strips, quail egg- this was a €2-something cheapie! Bar Astelena.)

2) watching your (ex-cook) friend make beurre blanc sauce with total ease does not mean you will be able to repeat that maneuver. Mine broke today (and I ate it anyway, how desperate!).

3) I am in the right place! Confession: when I found out my assigned school was nowhere near San Sebastian, I was secretly a little bummed. I mean, the culinary capital of the western world?! Who wouldn't flip at the chance to spend a chunk of their life there? Walking around the city and getting a feel for it, though, I still loved it but didn't get that same nice, at-home feeling I get here in Bilbao.

At any rate, I'm sure I'll be going back pretty often to visit, rival city to my own though it is (think Durham to Bilbao's Chapel Hill). I had a great time on my mini-vacation with Marti and her friends there.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

thank you, anthony bourdain

Just a couple thoughts now that the week (the work week for me, anyway) is over:

I am so glad I get to teach real lessons next week. Talking about myself for half an hour 12 times is, as it turns out, super awkward. I showed them pictures of my family, southern food, Michael Jordan and a Pepsi logo (hey, there's not a lot of internationally recognizable NC stuff out there). Also, watch out, stepsisters, because I think several dozen teenage Basque boys might be in love with you.

I just made what was easily my best pasta ever. Anthony Bourdain's cooking techniques special is incredibly useful and I can't recommend it highly enough. Dropping some starchy pasta water in with the sauce and your almost-fully cooked spaghetti: who would have imagined it was so good?

And I am going to Donostia this weekend.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In which we adventure, spread Basquitude and enjoy a miraculous rain-free vacation in Galicia

Hello everyone. When last I left you, I was getting ready to head to Donostia, a nearby city and my part-time hobby.

Who was it that said when we make plans, God laughs? Soon after I started planning that, my friend Jessica sent me an e-mail asking if I wanted to go to Galicia, another northern Spanish community, and stay with her and some of her family friends for the puente. I did, and about 40 hours later we were on an (11-hour!) train to A Coruña. Rafa and Antonia, the couple Jessica knows, met us at the station, took us to their house and the fun began. If you think I said that last part sarcastically, take your cynical glasses off because it was honestly spectacular.

First of all, let me start off by saying that Rafa and Antonia are probably the awesomest couple ever to come out of Andalucia. Rafa quickly set about entertaining us by asking Jessica about her family, calling me Meryl Streep and telling us Spanish word-play jokes. Antonia kept us spectacularly well-fed all weekend - I can only dream of emulating her cooking. Her churros are the stuff of sappy poetry.

I will not tell you all about A Coruña just yet because it is time for me to go to sleep and back to work tomorrow morning, but in summary: all days, miraculously perfect sunny weather (Galicia is known for rain). Day 1, Rafa showed us around the city and was hilarious. Day 2, we explored, took cold medicine and drowsy naps on benches (whoops!). Day 3, we took a bus into Santiago de Compostela, which I will tell you a little about.

Santiago is the destination of a famous and extremely popular pilgrimage across northern Spain. People hike, typically from France, to make it to the point where supposedly St. James's bones were discovered.

What this practically means is a lot of tourists who never get to spend much time in other parts of Spain. They have a few days in Santiago, though, where they want to take it all in. Gift shops have accommodated this need by supplying souvenirs that have nothing to do with Galicia (or, indeed, sometimes Spain at all) but have everything to do with items people might want but can't go to the appropriate regions to buy. We thought this was fantastic and roamed from shop to shop looking for these trinkets and coming up with slogans like these:

"I went to Galicia and all I got was this Catalan flag."
"I went to Galicia and all I got was this Betis doll."
"I went to Galicia and all I got was this Basque flag knife."
"I went to Galicia and all I got was this Brazil jersey."

Anyway, the night before we left Jessica gave Antonia a scarf and Rafa a Basque boina or beret, which was hilarious (just the boina, the scarf was just nice). Rafa came in to breakfast this morning wearing his boina and we nearly choked on our breakfast we laughed so hard.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

puente, say whaaaat?

This week after my first day of classes on Monday we have had reception/orientation stuff put on by the Basque government. Yesterday I rode with Esteban, my co-worker/program mentor, to a reception in Vitoria-Gasteiz. This consisted mostly of sitting and listening to some welcome speeches by, as Esteban put it, "big fish" of the Basque education department. Afterwards they provided pintxos, wine, soft drinks and dessert and we all mingled for a little while.

I had a super-exciting moment at school yesterday when we were getting ready to go, though. I was getting ready to meet up with Esteban to head out and I met the vice-principal of the school, and she turns to someone else and goes (in Basque) "he's over there." And I understood it!!! Get ready, complicated agglutinating language isolate, because I am SO going to learn you.

Then today was part 1 of training in Barakaldo, a suberb/satellite city in the Bilbao metro area. Some of it was incredibly helpful (concrete ideas of activities, how to plan classes/adapt material to the classes' levels, etc) and some of it was incredibly NOT (I'm looking at you, 1-hour segment on how to record people using a microphone and your computer and then post it online). A bunch of us (auxiliares) then went to IKEA, and I think I now have everything I need to settle in to my apartment.

The most exciting thing I learned today, though, was that we have a puente this weekend! For those of you not familiar with Spanish culture, a puente is when a national holiday falls on a day one day away from a weekend (i.e., Tuesday) and they make a "bridge" out of it by taking the day off in between too. In this case, the holiday is Columbus Day, which is also the Fiesta Nacional/Día de la Hispanidad (Day of Spanishness), which as you can imagine doesn't always go over so great in Basque Country. The important thing for me is this means I have Astelehena (Monday) AND Asteartea (Tuesday) off work!! Days off DO always go over great with me. Anyway, I may go to Donosti (yes, AGAIN, I know, I know!) and stay with a new friend there for a couple days.

One thing I've noticed is we (auxiliares) hang out in HUGE groups. This isn't necessarily a problem, except that we'll go into a pintxos bar and completely take it over. This makes me feel a little obnoxious, even though we're all good patrons and buy snacks and drinks and are not too loud and everything.

On the one hand, I wonder if now is time for me to be going out and making local friends (join a sports team! take dance lessons! something!). On the other, I remember that when moving to another country there's usually an adjustment period where you're just settling in and you tend to spend a heavier chunk of time with other people in your situation (i.e., expats). Plus, I genuinely like a lot of my fellow auxiliares a lot! Not to mention that I always find study-abroad or program people who won't be friends with their fellow countrymen at all because they're "trying to go local" a little snotty; I don't think the two are mutually exclusive. I guess my plan for now is to keep hanging out with my new friends but make sure I make an effort with my church and my roommates (I think we're all going to some open-house event at Mango this Thursday).

Monday, October 4, 2010

"shrimp and grits." "y'all." "Johnny Cash."

These were the important terms I wound up writing on the boards today in my various classes. As it turns out, you can take the girl out of the south, but then she gets approximately 700% more southern. I spoke to about 6 classes today and introduced myself, and when you're supposed to introduce yourself and your culture, it's hard not to become a bit of a cliche of your own region.

Other highlights:

One of my coworkers at the school is also new and she is super friendly and she invited me to her village and to go see an Athletic game with her (her brother is a socio and can hook us up with tickets). Awesome!

The student (a girl) who asked me, "do you like Basque boys?" This was in the most out-of-control of my classes and by far the most hilarious.

The class that got way more entertainment looking for all the Springfields on my US map than I would have ever dreamed possible.

The roller coaster of excitement and confusion that is Basque school. All the professors speak to each other almost exclusively in Euskera, which as it turns out is pretty intimidating. But then, I have short conversations with people and it feels like the biggest accomplishment ever. "Good morning," I say. "Good morning," they reply. Sometimes I say "Hi," and they say "Hello." Most impressively, yesterday I asked the lady at the front desk, "where is Esteban?" She told me in Spanish, but I still felt pretty good about it. I think I'm going to take it to the next level tomorrow and ask "where is Esteban, please?"

Anyway, next week I am planning to do music activities with my classes. My higher-level classes are all getting Johnny Cash day. A selection of the vocabulary I will be teaching them from "A Boy Named Sue": booze, ain't, honky-tonk, stud, cuss, saloon, gouging.

Euskera of the day:
Esteban non dago, mesedez? "Where is Esteban, please?"

Friday, October 1, 2010

i'm in!

it's midnight here, i'm supa tired and i'm waking up tomorrow morning to go to donosti for a day of beach sitting, sunshine and quality food. so all i will say is i am my new piso, i love it, and here is a photo of my room. will take more glamor shots of the whole apartment later.

my room:

Edit: here are some more photos of my lovely apartment. view out my window:

Living room:


Bathroom I share with one other girl: