(Pero donde esta el dinero?)
03.12.2011 - 20.12.2011 6 °C
Yes, a puente is a bridge, but it is also used in the context of a 'bridge day' between short holidays. It seems like a lot of holidays here fall on a Tuesday and the Monday before is a 'bridge day' or puente. We had two such short holidays a couple of weeks ago.
We all appreciate having a bit of time off from school and work – and so we very much enjoyed ourselves during the puentes. Tuesday, December 6th, was ‘Constitution Day’ and here in Plasencia, Monday was also a day off – a ‘puente’ or bridge day. Then, on Thursday, December 8th was another holiday – ‘Immaculate Conception’ day. The girls had school on Wednesday and Friday, but we opted to take Friday off.
For the first ‘puente’ holiday (Saturday, December 3rd until Monday, December 5th) we decided to visit Segovia. We came back to Plasencia on Monday, as the girls had school on Wednesday and had to study all day on Tuesday for the Wednesday exams (Let's have a holiday and make sure that the students have exams to study before between the two puentes, just so that they have something to do to keep themselves busy).
About Segovia: "Segovia is Spain and Castile at its best - twisting alleyways, the highest concentration of Romanesque churches in all of Europe, pedestrian streets where no cars are allowed, the aroma of roast suckling pig around every corner - all surrounded by the city's medieval wall which itself is bordered by two rivers. On the north-west extreme of the wall is the famous Alcazár castle, source of inspiration to Walt Disney, and where Queen Isabel promised Columbus the financial backing he needed to discover America. On the south-east extreme is the world renowned Roman Aqueduct, the largest and best preserved of its kind anywhere. The tallest building in Segovia is the 16th-century Cathedral, a prominent landmark as one approaches from any direction."
We stayed in a lovely hostal called Hostal Fornos in the Plaza Mayor. Everyone warned us that it was ‘muy frio’ en Segovia and boy was it cold!
The air was damp and hovered around freezing, and was filled with the smell of Cochinillo Asado, or roast suckling pig. Yes, there were 'little piggies' in every window, and not very happy 'little piggies' either.
In just about every restaurant window, this is what we saw. To us, it was difficult to look at; one because we're vegetarians and two, because we're just not used to looking at our food looking back at us. But to the Spaniards, this is like looking at heaven -- el cielo.
After two+ days back in Plasencia (Monday night, Tuesday and Wednesday), we opted for another excursion, this time to the west and south – to Lisbon, Portugal!! The drive to Lisbon, from Plasencia, was about four hours long. But -- then trying to navigate our way through the city to get to our destination, without a city map (not that it would have mattered as the names of the streets are so tiny, so black and up so high that one has to be a special detective!
We stayed in the neighborhood of Estefania, in two different hotels. The hotels were amazingly cheap (60 euros/night including a breakfast for us all!). We found this little Portuguese restaurant, very non-touristy (no English spoken), with inexpensive and wonderful food. The best was the local, no-name vino tinto, 375 ml for 1.40 euros. Lisbon is huge and vibrant. Unfortunately it was foggy, misty and then rainy, which made it difficult to walk and enjoy the city. We had hoped to make it to the district of Belem…well – perhaps there’ll be another time.
The Christmas holidays are quickly gaining on us. We are down to days of school left, followed by nearly a three week holiday break. For the last two weeks of school, as the students are slammed with end of term exams, I’ve decided to bring in a little holiday cheer into the classroom. I made a ‘Christmas Time’ powerpoint, replete with Christmas songs and videos embedded into the show. It’s by no means a masterpiece, but each time I’ve showed it to teachers and students, they applaud at the end….really. And the huge highlight of the presentation is when I hand out a piece of holiday candy to each student. I’m pretty sure that otherwise they’re not only NOT allowed to eat candy in the classroom. It has been interesting and a pleasure to learn about Christmas/New Year’s customs in Spain…Los Reyes Magos, eating 12 grapes on New Year’s Eve, and lots of other traditions.
On alternate Tuesdays I start work late. When I can, I go to the ‘mercado de ropa’ (clothing market) down the street from us. Lots and lots and lots of very cheap clothing, accessories and general household items – all from China. Nonetheless, it’s always very interesting. I put together a short video of the market. Later on in the day it gets quite busy, but hopefully you can get a sense of the atmosphere there.
We had big, BIG plans to drive all around Spain during the long break – but very recently decided that we just can’t pull it off. While we received our 700 euros each for our work in October, we’ve not received payment for November nor December. The 1400 euros only goes so far and our Spanish bank account, along with everyone else in this program (well…practically everyone else in Spain for that matter!), is nearly empty. We are very fortunate that we have some financial resources to pull from back in the USA, but those resources are earmarked for our USA domestic expenses. Now they’re also being earmarked for our daily expenses here in Spain and most likely for our return flights home. Most folks here are not as fortunate as us and are having to beg and borrow their way through, as they wait for their money to come from the local Spanish government. We realize that Spain is in dire financial straits, as is much of the rest of Europe. But, to offer up grants to foreigners, to promise them money (but a promise is not a contract and we don’t have contracts….lesson learned) and then to hold out payment is very difficult.
Nonetheless, we’re determined to make the best of whatever situation we’re in. We’ll make our way to Sevilla, Granada and probably spend the majority of time, during the Christmas holiday break in Andalucia. We’re looking for other couchsurfing opportunities and folks to show us their part of Spain.
We really enjoy Plasencia, our neighbors, the people we’re meeting, and the overall customs. We’re approaching the four month mark of being/living in Spain and are nicely settled into Plasencia. We love being able to walk everywhere and love the little tiendas on every street corner. The school experience for us all is fascinating. We can't help but compare schools here (in every which way) to schools back where we live. Andy took some photos of his high school (IES Gabriel y Galan) -- and in particular with his ESO #1 (roughly 6th grade equivalent).
Even four months into our stay, we all miss our family and friends and our animals and we’ll be looking forward to seeing everyone next summer. When we’re not travelling, we’d love to have some more courageous folks come and visit us. Come February, come March, May or June, or come and travel Europe with us in July. Come and we’ll take you to our tiendas favoritas, los parques, monumentos, ruinas y mas.
And we want to end this blog with a special Holiday cheer........ Feliz Navidad a todos!