Spanish Thanksgiving

Spain does not celebrate thanksgiving at all nor do many people know what it is or why it’s celebrated. Therefore it became my personal responsibility to teach Torrijos all about Thanksgiving.

It started small scale last year and this year we went all out. Last year I bought a can of pumpkin from the special American store in Madrid to make pumpkin pie for the teachers at school. They loved it!! This year I prepped by packing a can of pumpkin in my suitcase when I left for Spain in September. We started planning early November to gather a group of teachers and friends for a thanksgiving feast.

Pumpkin pie: check
Green bean casserole: check
Mashed potatoes: check
Jamon and Spanish omelette: double check
Turkey: hmmm

The turkey was a point of concern since Spain isn’t too big on turkey. It’s more traditional for Christmas dinner. One friend told me that her uncle gave her a turkey and they grew it on their family farm until it was ready to dinner! HAHA I really didn’t want a live turkey and I was completely comfortable settling for another main meat but one brave teacher stepped up to the plate. (Pun not intended). She got a whole turkey, stuffed it, and roasted that little guy in the oven for 4 hours. FYI we didn’t have to kill any turkeys in the process.


Since it was their first thanksgiving, I had to rewind a bit to my early elementary school days where we dressed up as Indians and pilgrims. I divided the group into Indians and pilgrims and gave them appropriate headwear. It was the perfect photo!


There’s a reason I normally eat turkey for thanksgiving around 3:00pm because then I can take a nice nap. Eating turkey at 10:00pm basically put all of us in a food coma. We cured ourselves with a few cocktails and headed out to a bar in Torrijos to end the night. Successful first thanksgiving!


Nights like these really remind me how lucky I am to have such wonderful people around me near and far. Maybe this is how the pilgrims also felt at the first thanksgiving?!


Asturias, patria querida

An accidental bucket list item of mine is to visit all the Comunidades Autónomas of Spain. Comunidades Autónomas are the 17 different provinces of Spain. So far, I have visited 10.  I didn’t make it a goal for my time in Spain because if I planned it, I had the feeling I would let myself down if it didn’t come through. I still would like to visit them all, but we will just see where the year takes me.

This weekend’s adventure took me and a friend of mine to Asturias in the north of Spain. I spent one day in Oviedo and two days in Gijón. We planned it on a whim and prayed for good weather. The North is notorious for rain, and lots of rain. So we crossed our fingers and packed our rain gear. I took a 5.5 hour bus from Madrid to Oviedo on Friday. I guess the good thing about rain is the green landscapes. We drove through some mountains and it instantly reminded me of the mountains in Costa Rica. I arrived to the city and just started walking to take advantage of the beautiful, sunny day. It’s a bigger city and had incredibly beautiful and charming architecture.  It was all very colorful and ornate. When I arrived, it was lunch time so I walked into the main plaza and found a nice little restaurant. I had multiple suggestions from teachers at school to drink sidra (cider) and eat “cachopo”. See pictures below for references. Cachopo is not for those with a small stomach. It’s two thin veal cutlets and in between is ham and melted cheese. Then it’s fried. WOAH. Good thing I did lots of waking to burn off those calories. I saw the cathedral, walked through the park, and did some shopping. Then I hopped on a local bus to Gijón. A short 30minute bus ride to the coast.

I met up with April in Gijón and we got dinner at a Sidraría. We had lots to catch up about as we haven’t seen each other since May. We decided around 3am that we have another full day to chat. Saturday was another beautiful day with no rain. We joked that we had to go back to the room so we could put our summer shirts on instead of our winter sweaters. We headed straight to the water and were very surprised when there we saw a ton of people swimming and tanning. It was in the high 60’s but they were taking advantage of the nice day. We stayed dry and kept walking. We walked to this funky sculpture thing on top of a hill. It’s called Cerro de Santa Catalina. It was a nice little hike and pretty views of the beach and the ports. We headed to a little bar restaurant for lunch, per recommendation of April’s teacher friend. We got there at a perfect time right before the rush. We ordered some sidra but were very confused when they didn’t pour it for us. Sidra has to be poured a special way for optimal taste and experience. We played the tourist card and asked for help and they poured it for us at the table. We split the cachopo and it was much more doable between two people.

Some more walking around the town, some shopping and a walk to another beach to watch the sunset.  A perfect weekend escape for a nice dose of vitamin “sea”.

La Sementera

Another year, another fería. Check out this cute promotional video-all filming is done in my town.

It’s a celebration in the whole town from Wednesday through Sunday. The Sementera is an old festival tradition in Torrijos. Today, people come from neighboring towns to enjoy afternoon beers and late night concerts. Families bring their kids to the fairgrounds to ride the attractions and eat some salchi-papas. In the old days, I like to think that people traveled on their horses to Torrijos to visit friends and family and similar to today, share a beer. I also think they had other motives like buying supplies for their farms or more livestock. Now the only things you can buy are pitardos (firecrackers), cheap toys, and counterfeit Nike shoes and fake Prada purses.

Wednesday is the first day of the celebration and it starts with the coronation of the town queen. PSA: She’s 15 and in one of my English classes. It’s a pretty big honor to get crowned or to be one of the accompanying ladies. My friends said they would nominate me for 2017 Torrijos Town Queen. The campaign starts now.

Thursday, Friday, and Saturday all have a pretty similar agenda. Sleep in, because there is no school! 1:30pm Meet up with friends in the main plaza for afternoon beers. €1 bottles!!! Then grab a sandwich for lunch from one of the tents set up around the square. Enjoy the afternoon listening to some music, catching up with friends, and of course–drinking beer. The brave stay in the square all day and all night. Some (cough, cough, me) go back to their apartments around 7:00pm, take a quick nap, maybe a shower to refresh, and head back out! Grab another sandwich for dinner and switch to coctails. Mojitos are the big thing in Spain. I prefer a classic, vodka-lemonade. You can take the girl out of college, but you can’t take the college-age-appropriate drinks out of the girl. There’s a concert in the main square for the adult crowd. In the fairground area, there is a giant party for the adolescents. I didn’t dare step foot over there because on Monday my kids would have never let me live it down.

And yes, you must be thinking that publically drinking all day in the town square might give your students a bad idea. I thought the same thing last year until a student bought a round of teachers some drinks. The key for Spanish drinking is patience. We aren’t pounding shots at the bar and a few beers a day just might keep the doctor away. That’s the saying, right?!

Special shoutout to my friends this weekend (JF&S) who always made sure my stomach was full and I always had a cold drink to cool off with. They are some of the nicest people I’ve met here and I am so thankful for these wonderful friends.

Museo del Prado

Let’s get cultural, cultural!

Here’s my personal tour of Museo del Prado in Madrid, Spain. Including some of my favorites and the classics.

So the museum classifies art by category and I happen to do the same. However, I think my categories are a bit more descriptive and have better titles, but I might be biased.


1. Prince Baltasar Carlos on Horseback. –Diego Velazquez


This is one of 5 portraits on horseback that Diego Velazquez was commissioned to paint for the Royal Court. The painting uses bright colors that a 5 or 6 year old spanish child could identify in English or spanish. His outfit shows that he has attitude and he doesn’t need his mom’s help or approval in what he wears. His eyes are silently saying, “Look Mama, this ain’t no pony!” The tiny prince is also demonstrating his power by making his baby walking stick visible, which a few years later, he carved into what’s now know as Lincoln Logs.


2. The Infanta Margarita de Austria. – Juan Bautista Martinez del Mazo


This portrait was painted by Juan Bautista Martinez del Mazo because it was commissioned after Velazquez’s death. Margarita was the daughter of King Phillip IV and Mariana of Austria. She was nine at the time of this portrait but her face says, “nobody puts baby in a corner!!”. Her hair looks freshly cut, dried, and styled, maybe we go to the same guy here in Spain?! Her dress. OMG Her dress is a metaphor for her attitude–BIG. This little girl knows she’s going to marry rich and never even have to lift her pinky finger to drink her afternoon chocolate milkshake.


3. Eugenia Martinez Vallejo, naked. –Juan Carreño de Miranda


OMG it’s a girl! I was convinced it was a boy. Carreño was known for depicting monsters, jesters, and dwarfs that inhabited the Spanish court. I really like this portrait because of her eyes. They say so many things. For example: “Mom, I told you I wanted green grapes!” “When I can eat these grapes?” “Do you think Mom will let me get a training bra soon?”


4. Las Meninas. –Diego Velazquez


Jokes aside, this is my favorite Velazquez portrait and in my top 5 paintings. There are so many things to look at. You could be mesmerized by the dwarf in the green dress. Or you could see Mommy and Daddy (Phillip IV and Mariana of Austria) peeking in to see how the portrait is going. The ultimate inception is seeing Velazquez painting himself painting the portrait. But one of the most important artistic techniques in this portrait is perception and light. You actually feel like you’re looking into a room, not staring at a large piece of paper.


DARK ARTS: interpreted by Goya and not Professor Snape

1. Saturn


If this doesn’t give you nightmares, I’m not sure what would. This is one of the pieces in Goya’s Black Paintings. It’s a representation of Saturn devouring one of it’s sons. For this one, I’ll let the painting do the talking.



1. The Clothed Maja. –Francisco de Goya


“Paint me like one of your Spanish girls” ––cut line from the popular movie, Titanic. There are two versions of this Goya portrait, clothed and naked. But I wanted to keep it PG-13 so let’s all keep our clothes on. The woman is actually unknown and adds to the mystery in her eyes. I actually did a report in high school about this portrait and couldn’t help but giggle the entire time while talking about a naked picture, I didn’t laugh this time so you could say I’ve officially grown up.


2. Gentleman with hand on chest. –El Greco


Winner of the 2016 best portrait titles.

This Greco portrait is the final project of a six part series. He created 5 other similar portraits of men in fancy white shirts with a black coat. The sitter is unknown however there are many suspects, including one of my previous college professors. Hmm the timing doesn’t add up but, I’m 26% sure it might be Dr. Castro.


3. The Cardinal. –Rafael


Runner-up to 2016 best portrait title.

Fun fact: I wrote about this painting in college for a Spanish class. “Rafael painted ‘El Cardenal’ in Rome in 1510 and the Spanish acquired the painting with the help of Carlos VI. You can tell it has influence from Leonarde de Vinci. It has the same style, where the body forms a triangle between the nose and arms. It’s a good quality painting, with bright colors and aspects of light, which make it life-like.” (Mattes, 2012)

Spanish Songs

What better way to integrate into a new culture than by learning their favorite songs?

It’s pretty cool to finish the lyrics to a song a student is humming in class (si neceista regatton…dale.). Here are some classics songs that you should learn to fit right in at the bar…or some new songs to add to your fav playlist.

Classic Hits

  1. Mayonesa, by Chocolate .  So America sings about how to do the hokey pokey, Spain sings about how to beat mayonnaise.  This dance party hit has some awesome moves so learn that choreography.
  2. Saturday Night, by Whigfield. This is a classic hit sure to get the whole bar dancing. If you had to compare it to a US song, it would be the cha-cha slide. These moves are a bit more difficult but well worth it to learn. Shout out to Yoli for teaching me after the Faculty Christmas dinner.
  3. Ave Maria, by David Bisbal. No not the song you hear at church, this David Bisbal hit is a classic upbeat song. Also if I ever do spanish karaoke, this would be my choice.
  4. Viva la noche, by Ainhoa. Another super upbeat song that just makes you want to dance. FYI, there’s no choreographed dance to this one, just wing it.
  5. Todos los dias sale el sol, by Bongo Botrako. EYY CHIPIRON. Sing this song at the top of your lungs with your friends dancing and jumping around in a circle.
  6. Don Diablo, by Miguel Bose. I heard this song at the Spanish wedding and everyone knew all the words. So my homework project this summer has been trying to memorize all the lyrics.
  7. Pasado pisado, by Comando Tiburon.. Y ME DEJASTE {and you left me}. This is the ultimate break up song about how awesome your life is now.
  8. Zapatillas, by El Canto de Loco.  My friends were flipando when I knew all the lyrics to this song. My secret: I shazam songs, then look them up, and listen to them until I know all the words.
  9. Sueño su boca, by Raul. ISO (in search of) a really hot spainard who will dance with me while this song plays.
  10. Levantando las manos, by El simbolo. This sounds like something from a kids movie but young and old love dancing to this song. More easy choreography to learn.


Flamenco is definitely an acquired taste for anyone who wasn’t brought up listening to it.  Here are some that have become mainstream and are very popular.

Now I haven’t had time to take any flamenco dancing lessons but I’ve picked up a few basics.  1.  Get the clap right.  Practice, practice, practice.  2. The hands.  Take one hand at a time and pretend you are picking an apple from a tree, then pretend to take a bite, then pretend to gracefully throw it away.  BAM, flamenco dancer.

  1. A mi manera, by El Barrio.
  2. Por eso te canto, by ErPeche & Azahara
  3. Volare, cantare, by the Gypsy Kings
  4. Vino Tinto, by Estopa.  (Also I highly recommend seeing them in concert, they were fantastic!)
  5. Bamboleo, by Raya Real.


Current Hits.

  1. Picky, by Joey Montana.  Very annoying to many, by my personal favorite song of the summer.  My friends changed the chorus to “demised Gabby Gabby Gabby”.
  2. Cómo te Atreves, by Morat. Gracias Maria for sharing this song with me! It’s a really fun song to sing along to.  We actually sat in a parked car to finish listening to it.  True story.
  3. Baila conmigo, by Juan Magan.  I’m sure my students singing this song is their way of practicing english this summer.  It has about 4 lines in English.
  4. Duele el Corazon, by Enrique Iglesias.  Oh Enrique, YES.
  5. Mi corazón, by Xriz.  Try to not dance to this song, I dare you.



year one

Even after a year of living abroad it’s hard to believe this is my reality. Some days I wake up and almost explode of happiness. You know that super cliche quote something like, “take a chance, you never know how perfect something could turn out to be” that’s my life.

This isn’t an emotional goodbye Spain post because I’ll be back in September for another year, but a little glimpse into the highs and lows of my life in Spain.


People. Moving 4000 miles away from home isn’t easy by any means but the transition was cushioned by the amazing people who have welcomed me with open arms and treated me like one of their own. This starts with all the professors at school, to Ana and her family, to the man who owns the fruit stand and greets me every night as I walk home. I go to the grocery store and am greeted by half a dozen “Hhhhello Gabby!” From students and I can’t help but smile. My Spanish families—yes plural. First and foremost Ana and her daughters. I really don’t have sufficient words in English or Spanish to thank them for their kindness. The families where I teach private classes in the afternoon are the absolute sweetest and those kids feel like little brothers and sisters. Also big shout out to the moms that prepare a snack for me. The answer is yes, I’ll always eat the food you offer.

Travel. 4 new countries and over 20 new cities that I fell in love with. From day trips to long weekends, I’ve really been able to enjoy and experience what each place has to offer. I’ve eaten croissants in Paris, rode the underground in London, felt overwhelmed in the presence of God in Rome and eaten/drank my way through Spain. My teachers tease me that I’ve been to more cities in Spain then they have visited. Hah! Ok who should be teasing who in this situation?!

Spanish. whoa my Spanish has improved this year.. Drastically. I remember arriving in Madrid and almost had a panic attack because I couldn’t understand that they were saying to me. How could I study Spanish for nearly 10 years and I couldn’t understand “Spain Spanish” (castellano)? Now I crack my friends and teachers up by saying different common Spanish phrases. They also can’t help but giggle if I say a Spanish swear word ☺️. Andaluz Spanish where they drop all endings off words—not a problem. Spanish phone contract, apartment contract, Spanish taxes-so many new words to add to my vocabulary list.


People. I haven’t encountered mean or bad people but some just have a bad attitude. Maybe it to foreigners or maybe just Americans haha. I can tell when someone has shut me down before I’ve said two words. They think they won’t understand my Spanish or don’t even try to make an effort. *eyeroll* But the number of good, nice, welcoming spainards outnumbers the other by a long shot.

Travel. No, I’m not complaining about being able to see and experience the world but the process of that is sometimes exhausting. I’ve lost count of the delayed planes, missing buses, and metro strikes that make traveling more frustrating. But in the end, I made it home every time and my bed never felt better.

Spanish. yes I consider myself fluent, but there are still times where I feel like I can’t completely express myself. I also need to be more aggressive because spainards like to cut me off. Also I need to help spaniards better understand sarcasm, the humor gets lost in translation.

I think that wraps up year one. It just keeps getting better

Feria de Abril

So Spain should write a book on festivals.  Or maybe that’s what I’ll do this summer with some free time 😉

Feria de Abril is one of the biggest festivals in Sevilla and other parts of Spain try to compete.  It’s even so popular that snapchat had a sponsored story to share photos! It normally takes place two weeks after Semana Santa (Holy Week). {yes this post is a bit delayed} Well I spent that weekend in Huecas, a small Pueblo–nowhere near the size of the one in Sevilla but we all have to start somewhere.  It’s a big block party with all your neighbors, friends, and family.  There are dancers that put on a traditional Flamenco show and lots of food and drinks.  Is there ever a shortage of food or alcohol at a Spanish party?! No..the answer is no.

Here are some necessary things for Feria:

Vestido de Flamenco.  From the opinions of my mother and sister, it’s a very cultural and southern Andalusian thing that’s not for everyone.  But for me…YES! I decided this was going to be my souvenir from Spain and now it’s mine.  I bought mine in Jaen, Andalucia when we visited Ana’s daughter.  These vary in prices and patterns.  They can cost anywhere up to €1000 if you get one custom made.  The polka dots are very traditional and some dresses are even made with patterned fabric.  I wanted something that was simple and not too flashy but still traditional.  I imagine what I felt when I tried it on is what brides feel like when they find their wedding dress.  It fit like a glove and my smile stretched from ear to ear.  The dress might need its own plane ticket for the ride home.

Flower in hair.  Book your hair appointment in advance to make sure that you look the part.  More traditional is to have it at the top of your head but I thought I looked too much like a plant, so I convinced Sebastian (the hair dresser) to put it towards the bottom of my head.  More vine-like, less flower-like.  I’m not Cindy Loo Who from the Grinch.


Horses.  Yeah Huecas is very small..very small but some men from a neighboring town brought their horses for kids to ride and for me to pose for photos.  Priorities.

This was one of my favorite weekends because it was the start of spring.  Also dressing up, dancing, and drinking.  What else could I need?