Honey, I’m home.

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Yesterday I went to Athens. For a variety of reasons, it was much stranger coming back to my college town than to my hometown, where I have been (in denial) for three weeks.

I was visiting a pair of dear old friends. It’s a good thing that they are both “dear” and “old” because, for reasons I attribute to exhaustion, culture shock, and crushing aimlessness, my communication these days has been little more than wordless gurgling.

There is a reason, though, that it was good to see these friends. During the past couple of weeks, I have slowly crawled out of my hermit shell and begun to catch up with various people, with mixed results. With some, time had graciously stood still while we were apart. Laughter was easy and understanding effortless. We simply filled in factual gaps. With these friends, my thoughts and conduct were in harmony with my conscience and personality. In other instances, I experienced a disturbing inner dissonance – like I wasn’t fully comfortable with or supportive of what came out of my mouth, or, for that matter, others’ mouths. Having been away from everyone for eight months, it was strikingly easy to compare my interactions.

When I came to Athens, Athens Friend One (we best call him Vladimir, Vlad for short) wisely reminded me that the best people to be around are those around whom you feel you are the best version of yourself. People who push you to think and act in the way you are proud to think and act, who make you feel curious and passionate and excited and positive about the world you’re in.

It’s really quite true.

(And all life lessons are best illustrated with pictures of food and coffee and Athens.)

 

Fountain at Herty Field (Athens, GA)

On the Run [Race Day Edition]: El Medio Maratón Gran Bahía Vig-Bay

Porto de Panxón

Porto de Panxón (Port of Panxón)

Running is one of the best ways to see a new place, if for no other reason than for the sheer amount of ground you can cover. With organized races, though, you gain a new advantage: you, the runner, rule the roads cars once did.

Last month, I did some ruling of my own in the Vig-Bay Half-Marathon. This was my fourth half-marathon overall and my second one abroad. The first one, the Royal Parks Half-Marathon in London, England, left some big shoes to fill. It looped through Hyde Park, the banks of the Thames, and Trafalgar Square, to name a few of the sights. The Vig-Bay, located in Galicia and smaller in scale, was a different animal.

The race route connected Vigo to nearby Bayona, hugging the coast and including views of the gorgeous Islas Cíes. Though the weather was a half-hearted drizzle, it’s hard to complain when you’re running right next to the ocean. I was thoroughly distracted the entire time, gaping around every bend. There was even a Celtic band, complete with bagpipes, churning out just the screeching/heart-pumping tunes you need in a half-marathon.

As I have picked up on, though, running has not really taken off among the chicas here in Spain. The proportion of girls running was drastically lower than in any other race I’ve done – roughly ten percent of all participants (!). Let’s be real, though…that just made me feel like a badass. Especially when I made my personal best time (cue fist pump).

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Noncommittally drizzly weather, true to Galician form

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Runners soothed their muscles at the beach at the finish line (Baiona/Bayona)

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Flan, the recovery food of champions (Restaurante O Peirao, Panxón)

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A post-race visit to Vigo

Lace up those sneaks, folks!
MB

In pursuit of a roost: a practical guide to finding housing in Spain

As an Auxiliar de Conversación, finding an apartment (piso) is the most panic-inducing endeavor you will take on when you move to Spain. At least it was for me. In college, I made friends with type-A people who painstakingly screened and selected our housing, while I nodded enthusiastically. So when I moved to Galicia, not only was I finding my own housing for the first time, but I was finding it in another language. Gulp. Needless to say, and I made some mistakes. Here are some keys to getting a roof over your head (more…)

Carnaval comida

Now that Carnaval has been over for a solid month, I figured I’d talk about it. So much of Galician culture is expressed through food, and Carnaval is no exception. Due to some enormous generosity, even my gluten-free stomach got to partake in the festivities. There are two recurring elements in Galician Carnaval cookery: pigs and anis (a liquor made mostly in southern Europe). So without further ado, here are three staples of Carnaval cuisine in Galicia. Warning: staple two contains graphic images for vegetarians.

1. Orejas

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My ever-lovely carpool chauffeur shared this tradition with me. “Orejas” means “ears” in Spanish, and these pastries are so called because they are shaped like pig ears. The dough is fried in pork grease, which gives it its distinctive flavor. The taste of these light, crumpled triangles is accented with sprinkled sugar. Doing orejas gluten-free, however, was quite the challenge (to the surprise of everyone except me). In typical gluten-less style, my dough clung to the rolling pin like a toddler to his mom’s leg. When triangles were finally cut and stretched, they promptly broke in half. “Es otro mundo!” (It’s another world!) was the refrain of the day. As a result, my gluten-free orejas were a good deal thicker (and more troublesome to fry) than their toxic, wheaty counterparts, but I still managed to pack them away.

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2. Cocido

Once upon a time, I ate pig face. This act of barbarianism is a keynote of cocido, the Galician tradition of boiling and then eating all parts of the pig. Like every single part – ribs, ears, shoulders, etc. I experienced this tradition thanks to the professors of my school, who planned cocido as the “comida de entroido.” The meal was accompanied by boiled potatoes, grelos, chickpeas, and chicken. There was so much salt that I was dehydrated for a full two days after.

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3. Filloas

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Gluten-free filloas & rosquillas (another typical pastry made with anis)

Filloas are similar to crepes – sweet, soft, floppy, and round. They are served plain or with powdered sugar, honey, or a dash of chocolate syrup. The madre of one of my celiac fifth-years was kindhearted enough to make me a box of these, gluten-free style. We’re talking light-speed consumption, people.

The music teacher’s filloa

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A tent in Plaza Roja housed some serious filloa production during Carnaval (Santiago de Compostela)