Usually January is considered a time to tighten up the budget and the post-holiday buns and to settle in for the less festive side of winter; but as most of Spain is packing up their poinsettias and nibbling on the last crumbs of turrón and Roscón de Reyes, Santa Cruz de Tenerife is just warming up for the real party… Carnaval.
Glittering fairy lights, oversized Christmas trees and the smoky scent of chestnuts and honey almonds roasting on an open fire. Dulce Navidad is playing in the shopping centers and long lines loop through El Corte Inglés. It’s the end of November and beginning to look a lot like Christmas all over Spain.
Sometimes it still feels like yesterday, sailing over the Atlantic en route to Barajas International Airport, mentally preparing to touch down for “a year” in Madrid.
After the anticipation and farewells back home and the buzz and stress of getting started in your new ‘home’, it finally hits you. You’re here alone. Maybe you won the roommate jackpot or were blessed with a coworker that’s taken you under their wing, but if you’re like many brand new expats, this is probably the time that loneliness and homesickness are starting to set in.
Even experienced teacher’s get first day of school jitters when starting a new gig. Not only do you have to meet a dozen or more new colleagues (in your second language), you also have to introduce yourself to anywhere from 300 – 1,000 (not exaggerating) new students who may or may not understand anything you’re saying.
We arrived around two and the fiesta was already in full force. Squeezing through the mobs of sweaty fiesteros and fishermen selling eucalyptus branches for 2 bucks a pop, we made our way through the crowded, narrow streets to Plaza de la Constitución, the heart of enchanting Agaete.
My standard packing style usually starts the night before I leave, typically after my despedida (farewell) dinner, and almost always after one-too-many glasses of wine. It’s one thing to rock that laissez faire lifestyle when packing for a month or two, but a year of living abroad is definitely higher stakes, as I learned moving to Spain as an Auxiliar de Conversación.
Apartment hunting isn’t usually considered fun. Throw in a different language in a different country with different customs and it’s, well, different. Luckily, you’re not the first guiri to make the move to sunny Spain, so save yourself the stress of making all the mistakes yourself and learn from some of ours before you.
To describe Cuenca as dramatic would be an understatement. Originally founded by the Moors in the 8th century, the city was built on a peak protected by severe drops down to the gorges of the Huécar and Júcar rivers below. Everything surrounding the city is verdant green, and everything within the city is solid stone that has witnessed thousands of years of history.
Every Thursday night in Vegueta, the scent of mojo and mariscos fills the air and hungry patrons – both locals and guiris alike – fill every bar, terrace and square inch of sidewalk. It’s the weekly Ruta del Pincho aka Tapas Thursday in the historic center, where friends gather together to share a bucket (or 10) of botellínes and sample the countless pinchos on offer.
Eating my way through the Canary Islands has been and continues to be one of my favorite parts of living in this little corner of the world.
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