Scrapbook of a Future Nobleman

A Couple of Holidays

It’s been a while since I put up a real post. So I’m going to do that now, right before I start vacation and you don’t hear from me again until January. Let’s make this one about holidays, and we’ll start with Thanksgiving…

Perhaps you already read about our expat Thanksgiving on Dietrich’s blog, but I’d like to add my two cents. We did it up real nice. That’s one of the really cool things about Thanksgiving, I think. Wherever you are and whoever you’re with, you can make something great and memorable out of it. There were the four of us, Stephen and Dan T (Dietrich and Dan’s co-workers), Inez (a friend of Dan T), and Conchi, a Spaniard who Dietrich works for. Everyone made something, and we had pretty much all the food you’d expect to find: turkey, even if it was from turkey breast, stuffing, cornbread, twice-baked potatoes au gratin, green bean casserole, some bread, some salad, good beer dragged from Jaen by Dan T and Inez, and even apple pie. We stuffed ourselves like you’re supposed to, managed to stream some football off the internet, and then crashed. The next day, everyone but Conchi came back (some had slept over), and we had a lunch on the leftovers before the Dans went up La Peña. Gotta love it.

For the record, I had far more to do with the apple pies than Dietrich is willing to say. But it was a group effort to construct them. And they were really good.

Also, yep, I got to teach some of the kids about Thanksgiving. Wrote up and edited a story that made them say “Squanto” and everything. Then they colored turkeys. Fun!

More recently, we got to celebrate the ancient Spanish tradition of a puente – OK, so I don’t know how ancient it is, but it’s awesome and we could learn from it. Basically, when a holiday falls mid-week, they celebrate it on that day. What a concept! (Suck it, Labor Day Observed!) Not only that, they take off the days in between. That one usually isn’t official, but so many people do it anyway that they often make it that way.

Anyhow, the most recent puente was for two national holidays, Día de la Imaculada Concepción, which celebrates the Virgin Mary being born without sin (don’t ask me, I’m not Catholic), on the 8th, and Constitution Day on the 6th. The four of us and Becky took off to Seville for a couple days. Such a beautiful town! I plan on giving it it’s own post once I sort through photos. For now you’ll just have to content yourselves with the little photo project we did while we were there: Might as Well Jump.

The 8th of December was also the XXIX Fiesta de la Aceituna here in Martos. I did mention that this was a huge olive farming region, right? Marteños celebrate by passing out a free lunch to the whole city and fresh-pressing some olive oil in the park. I think it celebrates the start of olive harvesting season.

I’m not one to miss out on a free lunch, so of course I was there.

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Lunch came in a little bag, which old Spanish women were clawing and screaming at each other to get. We grabbed ours and got the hell out of the madding crowd.

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The contents: one small loaf of bread, one small bag of olives, a hunk of extremely salty fish, a bottle of water, and a small bottle of olive oil. Sticking to basics is often underrated.

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Delicious!

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The whole town comes out for free food.

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We also got a mini-lesson in how olive oil used to be made. Guys in jumpsuits put down a circular woven mat, then dump a bucket of olives on top of it and spread them around to make sure they’re on one level. Using a bucket and a hole in the middle of the mat for a guide, they repeat this until it reaches a height of about 5 or 5 1/2 feet high in the press. Then they crank, which can take as many as four men. The liquid all spills down to the bottom, and they run it through a funnel, presumably to filter it a little.

A little side note: the kid holding the funnel is one of my students. He was on the front page of the Jaen paper the next day and was deservedly proud of his part in the festival. The guy pouring is his dad, I think.

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After that, all of the town’s VIPs get some of the fresh olive oil to dip a giant loaf of bread in. The caballero in the brown jacket is my school’s director, Manuel.

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If you’re lucky, they’ll share some with you. We were lucky, as Becky demonstrates. BTW, the olive oil was really freaking tasty!

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As with any good Spanish festival, there’s also a market. They were selling herbal remedies for everything, roasted nuts, wine, mantecado (Christmas goodies), and, of course, jamon.

It was a good time. I love Spain.

Of course, it hasn’t been all fun and games. I’ve been working hard to get my grad school apps out the door. After a little hiccup involving either Correos or the USPS losing my UCLA application, I managed to get everything mailed yesterday. So I can relax until January, when the search for money to pay for school begins.

So what’s up next for me?

Yesterday was my last day of work before vacation, and, thanks to a little judicious rearranging of my workdays, I won’t have to be back at school until the 11th. Tomorrow morning, we’re taking a bus to Málaga, where we’re all flying out from. I’ve got a little longer than the other guys to spend before my flight, so I’m also going to visit Ronda, a beautiful old town with an immense gorge running through it where they codified bullfighting rules. From there, it’s on up to the Netherlands, where I’ll get to visit with my friends Maarten, Tim, and Theo for a week. Before I have to come back to Spain, there will be some time for a trip to Belgium, a completely new country for me.

Going to be good times.

So, since I don’t know how much internet access I’ll have over the next 20 days, ¡Feliz Navidad y Feliz Año Nuevo!