Finals Week, Spanish Style: Dec.12-Dec.18

19 Dec

I know what you’re thinking. “Rebecca, you aren’t in college anymore. You obviously don’t have a finals week.” Well my friends, sadly you are incorrect. Being a university TA means that when my students have finals/final papers due, I also get swept up in the fervor of finals. Suddenly everyone wants to have a meeting with me or have me look at their paper. I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, this is the most popular that I have ever been and probably the most popular that I ever will be.

In one week I met with 19 students in person and read/gave feedback on 18 papers over email. I’m not kidding when I say that I was swimming (okay, more like drowning) in papers. I woke up in the morning and read papers while eating breakfast, I went to work and read papers/met with students, and then I went back to my apartment and read papers while eating dinner. I then repeated this process for 4 days. It was a very, very exciting week. I at least took a few nice pictures of Segovia…

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Storms in Segovia

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There were some highlights still though! I attended a cookie exchange party hosted by one of the organizations that I volunteer for. First, I had to decide what to make. If I’m being honest, I haven’t yet used the oven in the apartment, so I wasn’t too keen on giving that a try. And then, many items aren’t the same or aren’t available here, like they are in the U.S. So, my options were pretty limited. I finally settled on making Oreo truffles, which fulfilled the requirements of not needing an oven and having ingredients that are easily acquired.

I will say that making these truffles, while simple, is harder outside of the US and without the proper tools. I may or may not have spent Wednesday night crushing Oreos in my room with a small flashlight. My roommates definitely think I’m crazy. And, it was funny because I had to convert all of the units in the recipe to metric units- so ounces to grams, and then estimate how much of the cream cheese to use. Despite what felt like a shoddy baking job, I’d go as far to say that my truffles were a hit. I had about 20 left after the exchange and decided to share them (I know, how generous of me) in order to avoid eating them myself. I even brought some into work and my colleagues were fans. It is safe to say that my one foray into American desserts in Spain was a success. I, however, don’t plan on there being a sequel.

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A little piece of home in Spain

And on Saturday, the highlight of my week, I participated in La Carrera de Papa Noel (aka the Santa Race). Things I never thought that I would say: “I’m sorry I’m late. I had to pick up my Santa suit.” Things I never thought that I would do: dress up as Santa and run through the streets of Madrid. But I did. And it was quite a thrill. First, walking through the streets and riding the metro dressed as Santa is an experience. I felt very strange when I was by myself on the way to the race, but as soon as I stepped foot on the metro I saw another girl wearing the same Santa getup and we exchanged a knowing glance. By the time I reached the race start, the area was swarming with people in Santa suits. Standing at the starting line was great because everywhere you looked you saw hats and beards and red suits. It was quite entertaining. The race was a lot of fun! Let’s be real, if you had told me a year ago that I would be donning a Santa suit, running six kilometers and calling it fun, I would have said that you were crazy. But, this experience has definitely been one of the highlights of my time in Spain so far.

I’ve never been the kind of person that likes standing out in public or drawing attention to myself. But I really embraced this experience because I can say, with great certainty, that I will never dress as Santa and run through the streets of Madrid again. This is a one time deal. I enjoyed watching the expressions of people as I passed them on the street while wearing the costume. They either gave me a funny look, completely ignored me, or made a funny comment/started singing “Feliz Navidad.” I even had a full-blown conversation with one woman who started talking to me about my plans for Christmas and why I was wearing the suit. While it may have been the slowest 6k time that I have ever run (I blame having to dodge walkers and the incessant need to take selfies along the race course), it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had running a race. Just me and a sea of Santas running through the streets of Madrid.

Despite the fact that I spent my morning in a Santa suit, the most ridiculous part of my morning happened after the race. There was a Santa sitting in a sleigh that you could take pictures with. I was debating whether or not to sit on his lap for the picture, but decided to go for it after I saw multiple people in front of me doing it, including a woman a few decades older than me and a few pounds heavier. So, I hopped up on the sleigh and go to sit on Santa’s lap, and he tells me to sit next to him instead. Um, okay Santa. Thanks for that. Ways to get into the holiday spirit: Dress up in a Santa suit and run through the streets of Madrid. Ways to quickly get out of the holiday spirit: Have Santa tell you not to sit on his lap. What a morning.

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Have you ever found yourself in a sea of Santas?

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This week was also Blue Hen reunion week in Madrid. The Alumni Association President was visiting and the World Scholars program (UD freshman studying in Madrid) was ending, so I was invited to partake in some alumni/goodbye events. We had drinks and tapas on Friday night and then dinner and a flamenco show on Saturday. It is always comforting to meet fellow Blue Hens in Madrid and to share memories about good old UD and Newark. The free food was definitely a nice plus as well!

Also, I tried Chinese food in Madrid for the first time, and I have to say I was quite impressed. As you can tell from my Germany/Austria post, I’ve started to try some more foods and expand my palate while abroad.  I just consider this experience to be another of cultural immersion. (It’s a great thing to be able to classify trying foods as a cultural experience). In case you were curious what Spanish Chinese food looks like….

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And Sunday was a pretty casual day. I kicked it off with some mass at the Cathedral. I have to say, this may be the only year of my life where I celebrate Advent and Christmas masses in three different countries. Kind of a cool feat, if you ask me. I then wandered around for a bit before heading back to the piso for food/Christmas music/a nap. We did have a Fulbright cookie decorating party, which offered the opportunity to eat more than my fair share of Christmas cookies and socialize with some Fulbright friends.

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A Spanish Advent wreath

Each day I am getting more and more excited about going home. While I graced the United States with my presence three years ago after a semester away, this time it will be different. Last time when I left Spain I had mixed emotions as I did not know when I would be returning, so as pumped as I was to be going home, I also felt like one of the great adventures of my life was over. This time, I know when I’ll be back so there is zero nostalgia about leaving. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever been this excited for something in my life.

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Also, this is my dog wearing a Santa hat… He’s clearly very excited for me to be coming home

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