Thursday, April 28, 2011

...and not a drop to shower with

I just woke up from a pretty serious nap. Which I took the second I got home today from a lot of hours on three airplanes that took me from Raleigh back to Bilbao.

And just discovered the hot water doesn't work. Why? The landlady changed our account while we still had at least 600 euros in it, then didn't tell us in time for the charges to come through to the new (empty) account, so when the Hot Water Folks came to take the Hot Water Money out of our account, it was Empty. Don't worry, guys, that last "E" was capitalized on purpose; it makes me feel like an American from the 18th century (ever read Ben Franklin's capitalizations? HILARIOUS).

So anyway, I'm praying this deodorant lasts a crazy long time, or one of my non-vacationing friends calls to offer up their shower. I've been on airplanes for many hours, people. Help a sister out.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

moving on.

About two weeks ago, my dad and stepmom found out they would be selling their house. And moving. Soon.

Like this Friday soon.

So here I am, back in North Carolina for my best friend's wedding, going through bunches of old stuff, taking what I want and leaving what I don't want to or can't bring with me.

Like these roses. Dad and Wendy put a lot into making their backyard gorgeous. I could say all the stuff you usually say about how we never really appreciate these things until they're gone, but it always goes that way, right? Of course it's bittersweet, but it comes down to this: it's time for a new chapter. I'm happy to get to watch them begin it.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

a field guide to spanish junk food. part 2: gummies

You thought I'd forgotten about this series, didn't you? That I was going to leave you all alone, clueless and overwhelmed in the Spanish candy store, unless all you happened to want were some caramels?

Think again, because today I'm tackling what is probably the most popular and definitely the most overwhelming of the Spanish candy families: gummies, known locally as txutxes or the less-Basquified chuches.

The first thing you're going to notice when you approach the gummy section is how dang much there is to choose from.

only a tiny selection from a local chucheria

Hang on, you're saying, is that an egg? A turtle? A bone? A brain? A twisty-looking something or other?

The first thing to keep in mind is this: if it looks like something, it probably doesn't taste like that thing. Clownfish don't taste like clownfish, and burgers don't taste like burgers. They both taste like generic chemical fruit flavor.

The only exceptions to this rule I can think of are 1) fruits and 2) chilli peppers. Yes, this is Sp- uh, Iberia, where nothing is ever spicy, but these little guys are picantes nonetheless. Way to buck two rules at once, gummy chillis.

The next thing you'll notice is this: they're all priced by weight, so you can mix and match. And for your first time in the den of sugar rush that is the chucherĂ­a, this is your best plan of approach. My suggestion? Go through and grab one of everything that looks interesting. Grab one of everything that looks popular, too. Do a taste test and remember which ones were your favorites.

At this point, I've narrowed it down to a couple standbys I go for every time. Red gummies of the Manneken Pis (see middle right-hand side of picture) are reliably wonderful and taste a lot like Swedish fish, if you can get past the admitted weirdness inherent in chewing on a tiny peeing boy.
Cola bottles are good and, come to think of it, another exception to the "things don't taste like what they look like" rule.

My very favorites, though, are the bizarre fruit licorice tubes filled with cream (see just below Manneken Pis). Picture a Twizzler or an Australian fruit licorice, filled with the filling of a Cow Tale, and you pretty much have the amazing treat you see here. Lucky for you, these are also the most ubiquitous - I've never been in a chucheria without seeing these.

So get after it! Just keep in mind, though, if you're planning on returning to the US, you're going to find yourself stocking up before heading home, then hoarding them Gollum-like upon arrival on American soil. I still bring them back in embarrassing quantities to my friend Elizabeth.

these things: not just blackberry and raspberry flavored anymore

Thursday, April 14, 2011

today´s post brought to you (unknowingly) by Laudio BHI

My students this week have been writing stories.

I give them a list of words, they get in groups and have to write stories using all of the words. I thought I´d share some of their results. I didn´t edit anything. The word lists were:

mango ugly sofa toilet embarrassed coffee Lady Gaga giraffe kiss dance skateboard chicken


car Bart Simpson octopus fat Cristiano Ronaldo beautiful silly apples run gross sing foot

And now, the results.

Once upon a time, Bart Simpson throws a green and delicious apple to Cristiano Ronaldo and made him stupid. He run to the hospital but when he is arriving he imagines an octopus near his foot. And he say:
-Oh it is a beautiful fat octopus.
When he finished the vision, goes to the hospital and the nurse says:
-Cristiano Ronaldo the silliest and grossest person in the world is singing a song in the car.

In toilet Lady Gaga is drinking coffe, later she is dancing in sofa. The chicken is ugly and she eat mango. She is embarrassed with her giraffe. because it mount in a skateboard. the giraffe kiss very well.

Cristiano Ronaldo is very gross and silly man. This man is very stuck-up. that´s why the persons doesn´t like it, Meanwhile Bart Simsomp a beautiful happy and funy boy, his favorite food is apples and he sing very good but cristiano ronaldo sing very bad.

The ugly of Lady Gaga was dancing in the sofa kissing a mango. The giraffe was jealous. It was dancing in the street and it triped with a skateboard and it got embarrassed and it went to its toilet to cry. Another day Lady Gaga and her mango were eating chicken and the giraffe ate the mango. the giraffe was thirsty, so it dronk a coffee. When Lady Gaga saw her mango eaten she shot the giraffe.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

just some things

So first off, Amorebieta - the town I work in during the evenings - has a pretty side. Did y'all know it had a pretty side? Because I didn't. You get there on the bus/train and it is mildly industrial and it has that weird spiny potato and sometimes it smells like a paper mill. But check it:


Second, why does everyone have to pronounce all their S's in northern, um, Iberia? Spanish as a second language people: try to say "Las respuestas" with all the S's. It takes like 15 minutes, right?! I want my acento andalu back, now.

Third, guess what, people? I led worship in church today. Have you ever been a worship leader, Kit? No. Was it kind of haphazard? Yes. Was it kind of awesome? Yes.

Monday, April 4, 2011


I've been wanting to do a post on fashion in Basque country for a while. Delightful folks (like this one) keep posting on Spanish chic, and I wanted to clear the air a little.

Before I first visited, you see, I sort of wondered: is there a specific Basque style, or is it all just, you know, kind of Iberian?

Yes to both, as it turns out. Much like in "Spain Spain" (you know, like I'm in Spain, but not Spain Spain), you do see lots of neutrals. Boots are a winter must, you can't wear sweatpants/workout gear in public, and tights under shorts is just how you roll if you're under 30.

But this isn't about the stuff that people wear here, in Madrid, in Sevilla, and in Barcelona. Think of this post as a love letter to those fashion trends that are truly and uniquely Basque.

Presenting 10 Rules of Basque Fashion:

1. Wearing outdoor apparel to do things other than go hiking is not just for Americans.

2. El Flequillo Vasco: Basque Bangs. It's hard to describe this accurately to people who haven't spent a little time in Basque Country, but it varies between an Audrey Hepburn (but with a bit more of the "a dog has been chewing on my hair" effect):
(All rights reserved by fastshelby on flickr)

and a really short, blunt fringe.

This haircut is great because 1) it works for ladies with short or long hair AND for men with a little mullet going on and 2) people can tell what your views on Basque independence probably are without having to ask. This haircut says, "I joined ETA and all I got were these lousy bangs."

(***Disclaimer: I have several friends who have had this haircut and are not members of ETA. I should also note here that they are all at least three times as fashionable as I.)

3a. Ladies: put on some makeup. What do you think you are, American?

3b. Not that much makeup. What do you think you are, Spanish?

4. Teenagers: Buy a Loreak Mendian hoodie. Wear it at least once a week.

5. Younger gentlemen: Hiking pants with contrasting color patches on the knees and butt are all kinds of fly.

The best are made by Ternua, and if you're really hardcore you can make a Tolosa tuxedo out of it by rocking a Ternua brand hiking jacket with it as well.

6. Also for the younger gentlemen: you need either an Athletic Bilbao or Real Sociedad jersey. You need to wear it once a week. You can supplement the other days by wearing band T-shirts or shirts with the Basque national soccer team logo.

7. For the older gentlemen: 4 things are key. 1) txapela (Basque beret). 2) camisa de cuadros (checkered Oxford shirt). 3. Cigar in your hand. 4. cardigan around your shoulders (most key in Donosti). Allow me and my Carnaval costume, Patxi, to demonstrate:

(photo credit Jessica Chandras)

8. Whoever told you fanny packs weren't fashionable was lying. They go great with those Ternua pants.

9. Tweens: Surf gear! Billabong jackets, backpacks, whatever. The more you can look like an Australian, the better, really.

10. Do all of this nonsense and still manage to, as a people, look more put-together than the average American can ever dream of.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

they hold these truths to be self-evident

It's bound to happen any time you move to a foreign country, really: you come up against the Local Truths. Things that had never occurred to you as possible outlooks on life, but there they are, confronting you and your American background at every turn. Here are some of my favorite facts of Basque life (and the ones that have challenged me the most).

1. "Spanish" is a palabrota, a cuss word. Don't call a Basque a Spaniard. Some do think of themselves as Spanish, but it's too politically-charged to say so nonetheless.

2. The word "Iberian" is a lifesaver. Because sometimes you want to refer to something that happens everywhere within the borders of Spain, but as we've learned, you can't just go around saying "Spanish." Although "Iberian" technically means the whole Peninsula, including Portugal, we know you're not talking about the Portuguese, are you?

3. Repeat after me: Staring. Is. Not. Rude.

4. You're walking on the street, and someone makes eye contact with you. What do you do? Give them a little, polite "Hi" smile, right? Wrong. This is one of the hardest things for Americans to adjust to, but adjust we must, because (at least for ladies) smiling at a random dude on the street can mean "hey, baby, you're lookin' fly!" For everyone else it just looks weird.

5. 14 is an appropriate age to begin staying out all night with your friends and drinking. And smoking, because it makes you look totally mature and cool.

6a. You can almost always tell who's, ahem, Iberian, just by looking.

6b. If you don't look Iberian, it will happen to you at least once that people yell at you on the street in whatever language they think you might speak (this is always English). Usually this means "Hello!", "I love you!" or one of the two cuss words they know.

7. Your waiter probably isn't being rude - table service just isn't as attentive as it is in the States.

8. Walking four people deep on a sidewalk is your inalienable right. You needn't budge - say, walk two and two - to let others pass.

9a. Stop worrying about efficiency - it's just not a priority here to the extent that it is to Americans. Yes, that means things will sometimes take 3 times as long as you think they should. But sometimes it can be a good thing because...

9b. ...Cheap food is usually higher quality than what you'd get in the same situations in the USA. Example: the sole restaurant by San Juan de Gaztelugatxe serves excellent pintxos. In the US, the only restaurant serving hungry visitors to a popular destination is usually not going to put that much thought into quality - probably a stand serving overpriced hot dogs and fries. Even though they've completely cornered the market, though, that bar puts out seriously delicious and affordable treats. Efficient, from a business perspective? Maybe not. Awesome? Heck yes.

10. Late isn't late, unless it is. Basque society is caught in this funny pull between Spanish culture and not-Spanish culture, and here's one of the places it shows. Sometimes (especially for social engagements) you don't show up on time. Other times you do. Beats me how they decide.

Other expats: what about you? What are some of the things you've noticed they take for granted in your new home that would never have occurred to you before? Which ones ruffled your feathers the most? Bonus points for expats from other places living in America - I'd love to hear which crazy American behaviors stand out the most!