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Friday, 27 December 2013

Christmas in Spain

Day 113: 26/12/13 (still writing this on the 31st!) 

So I'm not sure how well this blog is going to go as I am not very pleased with my phone right now. I spent an hour and a half writing the blog and it didn't save. So I have to start again and I can't remember what I had wrote... -_- and whilst re-writing this I had to re-write 4 more times. I absolutely hate this application. 

So today is the day after Christmas and I am proud to say that I survived it without crying (I just pulled "I feel sorry for myself" faces when talking to my family on skype instead). 
So... It sure was different this year! I celebrated it in a different country, on a different day, in a different way with a different family. Crazy!
    Although it was a nice Christmas, really, its sad to admit that I didn't feel much magic this year. Yes there was still magic amongst the beautiful streets and joyful atmosphere, and in the glittering fairy lights but Christmas didn't truly feel like Christmas. I don't know if this is due to the fact that it wasn't what I was used to - the strange traditions and foreign food, the lack of Jesus', that I have out-grown it (which I hope isn't true) or that I wasn't with my real family. To be quite honest Christmas snuck up on me, so I didn't get the chance to think about it that much... I would only give it thought when people asked me what I was doing - whether I was going back to New Zealand for Christmas or had any plans - and apart from that there was no exciting anticipation or anything of the sort. I did all my Christmas shopping in the last few days before and I knew I'd be just doing whatever my host family was doing, so I wasn't laying in my bed awake over it. But don't get me wrong, I do love Christmas! 

The time difference between Spain and New Zealand is 12 hours. So my (nz) family had Christmas before us and I was able to call them via Skype, but first, here in Spain they celebrate on the 24th of December too, so I had to spend time with my spanish family before calling. This celebration was very relaxed, I just went with my host family to the grandparents' house and we shared a nice meal together. This consisted of bread, ham, a salmon and egg dish, a noodle sort of dish (which I found out was actually sea worms) and prawns. 





All these foods were very strange for me as I hadn't tried them before and it wasn't a typical Christmassy meal as I knew it. In this way it was nice having the chance to try new things! 

So the evening ended at around 11.30pm (earlier than I had expected) and I was so excited to call my family, whom left me waiting for 20 long minutes!

I set myself up in my bedroom with my phone on the charger and a cushion on the floor as the 1 metre IPhone cables don't get you far (didnt reach the couch) and collected my presents that my awesome family had sent me from New Zealand.
    I rang my family and everything was exactly as I imagined it would be... a typical Tucker Christmas on the other end of the line. The Christmas tree was sitting in the same place as always, there was a busy and happy atmosphere and people everywhere. But when I say "people everywhere" I really just mean my family. You see: there was my precious wee sister Megsy who answered my Skype call with her singing into her new christmas elf microphone, my beautiful Mum bustling around organising things in her new Christmas dress, my Dad rattling off some inappropriate but funny jokes, my sister Danielle settled on the couch alongside her husband holding their newborn baby, my other sisters working away in the kitchen preparing the big Christmas feed, my two younger twin brothers setting up their new toy cars, with our adopted Grandad helping out, and then my favourite uncle sitting on the couch trying to avoid any chaos. This is what I call normal! Hahaha. 



   I think that's one of the things I miss the most being here in Spain. My family of course, but also, how there was always someone around. Here I have a family of only 3, and I always get up in the morning by myself, walk to school and return home to find an empty house. That is completely different to what I'm used to. In the morning in New Zealand I usually woke up with my Mum and we would go swimming and have some nice bonding time (which I miss so much!) and if Dad hadn't come with us we would find him in the kitchen with the jug boiling and toast in the toaster. Then my little brothers would get out of bed, and we would argue about them using the toilet whilst I was trying to get ready in the bathroom (it's so weird to say that I wish they were here to annoy me like that). My Dad would then drive us to school and pick us up again after.
    I've realised now how much I appreciate my Dad in the way that, even though he is often late and sometimes forgets about me, he is always there when I need him to be. I also appreciate how he would always listen to what had happened in my day and laugh at my stories and give me advice when I had any problems. Missing this amazing man so much! 

But anyway! My family was all doing there own thing but I got whomever had sent me each present to come see me (grab the laptop) whilst I opened the present. Everything that they got me was so thoughtful and I felt very lucky as I know how expensive the postage is! (Plus I had been waiting to open my presents for like two weeks!)




I got lots of nice clothes including merino, which is really good because Barcelona is a lot colder than I thought it would be! My mum and sister both sent me books, which is like a life-saver for me and I was very happy! Annnd, chocolate of course. The chocolate is good here, but I think its just the connection to New Zealand that makes the chocolate so special .


After I opened my presents it was time for lunch and even though it was like 2.30am for me I demanded that I join them and so they took me (the laptop) and placed me on a stool at the table where I could see all the delicious food and listen to my family and their joyous discussions as they feasted on their typical kiwi feast! I'm not sure exactly everything they had but I saw hamburgers, kebabs, salads, potato salad and fancy grape juice. There were also the typical christmas crackers, which contain the colourful hats that everyone wears and reliable lame jokes.  It was very frustrating and also sad being stuck inside the screen as I just wanted to hug everyone and also, eat all the food. 
But I was content and had a smile on my face,  that I couldn't stop, just seeing my family and knowing that they were all mine and would all be there when I got back made me feel like everything would be okay. 


(My face is so close to the camera here, probably because I was getting tired of holding my phone out) 

After chatting with my family and things were settling down a bit, my oldest sister convinced me that I should probably go to bed - 3.30am. I knew she was right but I was very reluctant as I didn't want to miss out on anything... But in the end I  gave in and dragged myself across the floor to bed. 

Christmas morning I woke up to my host sister shouting for me to get out of bed, I think it was 10am so not too bad I must say! My host sister is 8 years old and still believes in Papa Noel (Santa clause) so she thought that everything came from him and it was all magic. The night before they had left out some milk and cookies for him and he had left a wee note behind. 


For Telma it basically reads: look if the table (snowboard) is the right size.  This year I am very happy with you because you have studied very well. You don't talk so much in class. Now you are 8 years old, sleep in your own bed.

My note says: I hope that the present is your size. You have to speak more Spanish. Try to talk with the little one of the house in English. 

My note is a little confusing, I have to speak more Spanish but try to speak English. Oh well haha.

So after reading the note my host sister starting ripping open her Christmas presents, one after the other. Her coolest present by far was her snowboard. Now due to her believing in Papa Noel there were no thanks or gratitude for anything she was given, so personally, I don't want Santa to get all the credit at Christmas time. My kids will be getting Christmas presents from Santa (for all the magic of it) and their family, as I think it's really important to learn the how to give and receive. 
I thought carefully about what to give my family and in the end I thought that I bought some really nice presents but my presents were from Papa Noel too apparently...and I was a bit sad when my host parents didnt say thanks then or later on (they didn't make any comments so I have no idea if they liked them). I hope they did!  I had a Christmas present for me under the tree from my host family and surprisingly they did really well. They had bought me some sports shoes (my ones are really destroyed) and they got the right size too (or so I thought). I loved the colour and everything and was so grateful but when I tried them on they were too tight. My feet are honestly soo big compared to everyone here. So I'm hoping I can exchange them to my size but shoe shops are useless with sizes here, they never have mine.



So up to this point I had re-written twice and saved and everything I wrote after this is gone. Yet again and my phone screen turned off my 5 minutes. What is wrong with this phone!!! Nearly a page if writing gone!!! Breathe. Just breathe.

So after opening the presents we had a pretty relaxed morning, ate breakfast, got dressed and headed to the parents' house again. When I arrived I made myself useful (also trying to avoid standing around awkwardly) and laid the table. This time there were about 15 people (relatives) and they made an effort to make me feel welcome. I was happy to find that there was a relative that I hadn't met before who was my age and I was relieved, thinking i would have someone to talk to. Which I did but only for a short while because after lunch he was on a his phone for the entire time (anti-social, especially on Christmas!!) 

Before lunch there were presents for the three young girls, including Telma. They got some really nice gifts,  like dolls, games and activities, and one of them got a scooter! 



This meal was very similar to the meal I had had the night before. For starters we had prawns, ham, the salmon dish and bread. I was seated near the younger ones and the guy my age and was surprised to find that they finished off the plates closest to us faster than the adults did! 


We then had chicken flavoured soup with pasta in it and we cut up chicken and put that inside too. I did the usual thing and dipped bread in my soup, but apparently that's not normal here! Haha. I actually can't recall a time where I have eaten soup for Christmas?


After the soup they brought out a big chicken, which they cut for me and it was delicious with some amazing sauce to go with it. It doesn't look very appealing but I love chicken all the same. I do find it weird how here they would have chicken for lunch, just by itself, with no vegetables or anything. Felt stupid the first time this happened as I was waiting for the vegetables...


During the meal there was also lots of wine, and my glass kept being filled without me asking (because I didn't like it), and I was sure that one of the uncles was a bit drunk. He was very noisy, making jokes (in English) that I didn't understand and then laughing/snorting. He seemed to think that he was absolutely hilarious.

My favourite part of the Christmas meal is always dessert and after seeing what my family in New Zealand had had, I was really hoping we would have nice dessert here too. But I was sadly disappointed. Turns out Spanish people aren't that big on dessert! We had coffee, some melon, turron, pig sweets (which I hate) and the Anzac biscuits that I had made (great success by the way). There were no cakes and no ice cream?! No ice cream I tell you!! 

Now this is a photo of what my family in New Zealand had:


You can imagine how much I wished I could reach through the screen and grab it all! Trifle, strawberries, blueberries, cream, jelly, pavlova, ice cream, and my favourite, ambrosia!! Don't know which thing I missed more - the dessert or my family? KIDDING. Was a joke, of course - the dessert ;) haha kidding again! 

After the meal was all done, we then had presents for the adults through a thing called "invisible friend" which is similar to secret Santa. Each if us had to draw a number from the stocking (girls or boys stocking) and this number was matched up to a present. These were small gifts that were either funny or just nice things. This present was actually one thing I didn't get a picture of! I got a small box with cute kitten on it that contained some really sparkly eye shadow and lipgloss, not quite my colours but I'm sure I can make use of them some time! ;) These presents were brought by everyone and is a tradition.

The next tradition is a really strange one... I really don't understand it but okay. "Caga Tio", pronounced “Cacka-tee-oh”  is a wooden log with a smiley face painted onto one end. It also wears a traditional Catalan red hat and is basically the Catalan equivalent of Santa Clause. Any one with a little Spanish knowledge, knows that “tio” means “uncle“, however it also means “log” and Caga tio translates to “poo Log“, Christmassy hey?!

The idea is that Caga Tio is “looked after” by the kids from the 8th of December to Christmas Eve. They cover his rear end with a blanket to keep him warm and feed him Turron and Orange peel every evening. The more they feed him, the more Christmas presents he will “poo-out” for Christmas. I kid you not people, I didn’t believe it either, but it’s true, and the story only gets stranger from here. Caga Tio, apparently, needs a little persuasion to “poo” the presents out, so after weeks of feeding and making sure he is warm with his blanket, the kids are given a stick to “beat” it with. Only then will he “poo” out the presents. As if this isn’t absurd enough, they also have to sing a song… which is telling him if he doesn't poop out good presents they will beat him more! In our case however, they just brought out the Caga Tio from someone's house and I'm not sure if the little girl had been feeding it or whatever but it was very funny! They discovered that he wasn't really giving them presents and it was a fake!! Because they saw one of the dads putting the presents under the blanket and they were so angry! No more Caga Tio for them. 


There is also another poo orientated tradition that have here in catalunya which involves a wee pooing man called "Caganer". They seriously have an obsession with poo that I don't understand! (But hey its culture differences!) Caganer is a little porcelain “nativity” figure , squatting down and pooping (with his butt showing and all), somewhere in the nativity scene. He is normally hidden somewhere among the more traditional nativity scene characters, and there are heaps of different versions of him! It is honestly so strange, I think it's more normal to see him in the manger than even baby Jesus! (It's just not right). But I guess all cultures have to have something weird that they do.


After the Caga Tio there were no more presents and everyone sat around talking and I just about fell asleep on the couch (dribble and all - how embarrassing), I guess staying up till 3.30am did get to me in the end! 

We headed home after all of that and I believe that we just watched a movie and relaxed for the rest of the day!

 It was overall a nice Christmas, and I think there were more tears over having to re-write my blog a hundred times than over Christmas itself! Note to self - dont use your phone to write your blog - ever again!

I can now tick off my list "Christmas in another country" and I'm glad I got to experience it even though I missed my family a bunch. 

How was everyone else's Christmas?? Hope you all had a lovely time whatever you did!! I did have a nice day with my host family and their family!

So finally I am finished writing... I hope you enjoyed reading about my Christmas! 

Missing everyone, but I'm doing just fine! 

Love of love,


Victoria <3



Sunday, 22 December 2013

Friday, 20 December 2013

A Weekend in the Life of a Spanish Girl

Day 103: 16/12/13

So the weekend of the 13th-15th was all in all a great weekend :)

A few weeks ago AFS sent around an email saying that they had organised a non compulsory get together for all the students in the morning of the 14th of December and then our families too in the afternoon. All we knew was that we had to be in Barcelona at 10.30am to meet with the other students and volunteers and that we had to make a typical snack from our own country to bring to a shared "merienda" or picnic sort of thing. 

So I spent quite a long time trying to decide on what I could possibly make for this "merienda" that was either common in New Zealand or a typical kiwi favourite. After deciding and then un-deciding I finally chose Anzac biscuits! They seemed like a good idea as they have such an awesome meaning behind them! I had never made them before but I knew that they were easy enough... As long as you had the right ingredients and utensils. Problem being... Spain seems to lack ingredients and cooking utensils! I found this out previously when I had wanted to make lollie cake and couldn't find any sweets similar to eskimos or wine gums or malt biscuits. Plus in my house here, we don't have measuring cups, measuring scales, cup cake tins or cake tins. Meaning that I have to guesstimate the amounts of ingredients to use. I guess this is strange for me as I've grown up with baking being a regular thing in my family.
 So when the time came to buy ingredients for my Anzac biscuits, I found that they only had raw brown sugar for one and no golden syrup. We asked around for golden syrup and did some searching on the web and finally came across some in a store ... But it was $13 and I only needed two table spoons! So I ended up substituting the golden syrup for normal honey. 
I made the Anzac biscuits the night before (because i hadn't had time during the week) which turned out take a lot longer than I thought! We only finished dinner at 10.30pm and so i started baking at around 11pm. Though I was sure I had followed the recipe exactly, something was not quite right as the biscuit mixture was just crumbling so I took a lot of time trying to fix them and including all the cooking time and waiting for the biscuits to cool before dipping them in chocolate, I ended up getting to bed at 1.30am! Nearly died. 

So in the morning (8am wake up) I caught the train with Emily, exchange student from USA, and we skilfully found our way through stations to meet the other students expecting it to be a pretty chill, catch-up kind of activity... But no. We were paired off for a city wide scavenger hunt involving clues, Spanish, cello-tape, an Afs poster, taking photos, an apple and an egg. The main point of the activity I believe was having to ask people, in Spanish, for directions to these places that we weren't familiar with, but I also think that embarrassing us was something they thought would be fun! 

At each destination we had to take a picture with our Afs poster and collect a new clue from the Afs volunteers who were waiting for us. Usually we had to complete some task or just take off to the next place. 

At our first destination we were told that we would have to walk three legged (stuck together with the cello tape mentioned) whilst asking random people for directions to this plaza. This was very difficult and we got some very strange looks...

At some point some of us  removed the cello tape on our legs for a while and put it back on again before arriving at the next place because it was seriously sore haha. At the next stop we were given an apple and had to swap it with anything from anyone we could find, which sounded pretty strange. My partner and I decided to try out our luck in a chino store and she simply asked and the guy in the store let her have a cigarette lighter off the shelf. I was so surprised that we were just able to walk in and he was so nice about it! Im sure we would never be able to do the same thing in NZ. He really didn't want the apple though... 

The next time we were allowed to remove the cello tape from our legs but we had to get our arms taped together. We ended up being first to our next destination but there were no volunteers waiting! So about 14 of us students (exhausted and bored) sat down in a group in the middle of the street. We all whipped out our lunches and starting having a wee picnic. Quite nice really but I think we were in the way and people must of thought it was strange to see a group of kids all speaking English, but whom all looked completely different (being from different countries all over the world), eating sandwiches on the dirty street. 

Finally the volunteers found us and we had the task of finding someone that could fluently speak our language.  English! Easy! And my absolute favourite part of the day... We found a group of 4 young English boys in Spain on a trip, and of course I love English boys! <3 

There were a few more clues and tasks after this but that's enough of that.
After, we all had the shared merienda with everyone in a building and it was really cool trying food from lots of different countries! But the next part was not so cool... We had to speak in front of everyone, and there were heaps of people, about what we did in our country for Christmas (in Spanish) and sing a Christmas song. Gosh I could have died. Me and my friend both sung the wrong lyrics to our song, good one. 

So Sunday, was a nice way to finish off the weekend. I spent Sunday with a nice south african family, who lives across the road from me, in Anec Bleu (shopping centre) looking for Christmas presents and they shouted me lunch at an Italian restaurant where i had pasta, (it was not great, unfortunately) which was very kind of them :) They speak English and there is a boy my age, so it was a nice change being able to talk about whatever I felt like! I managed to find presents for my host mum and sister but still have to find one for my host dad with only days remaining! After, I returned to their house and watched a movie before heading across the street back to my house. It's very nice to know I have friends living just outside my gate :) 


So that's a summary of my lovely weekend! Crazy, embarrassing but overall, I really enjoyed it! And I must say that my biscuits turned out really well! 
Oh and I mentioned an egg in the scavenger hunt... We had to carry it round, but I have no idea why. Absolutely none...

Until next time!
(Which will probably be all about Christmas!)

Merry Christmas everyone!
Much love,
Victoria :)

Friday, 29 November 2013

Christmas is coming

Day 80: 24/11/13

Ahh the 24th?? In one month I'll be celebrating Christmas, all the way across the other side of the world from my family, my friends and familiarity. There will be no over-crowded bed for me to rush to in the morning to wait with my family before bounding into the living room. There will be no summer sun beaming in through the windows like a typical kiwi summer Christmas. There will be no prayers of thanks and acknowledgement of Jesus' birthday before opening any presents. And the thing that is most on my mind is how there will be no Tuckers! One of the main reasons I'm not looking forward to Christmas is because I think that i will be very lonely and therefore, sad. I still don't feel like I am part of my Spanish family and so I'm worried that Christmas just won't feel like Christmas if you know what i mean! I am 99 % sure that I will cry, but I will try hide it from my host family... i wouldn't want to be a downer at Christmas!

But anyway, things definitely will be different this year! I am sure that it will be colder Christmas but I'm not sure of much else! 

Already, there are beautiful lights being hung up in the streets , there are window displays of mini Christmas trees and magical elves, Christmas songs, like Mistletoe by Justin Bieber, playing down the aisles of the supermarkets, television advertisements using santa as a means of capturing children's attention and then there are my friends... all talking about the wonderful things they will do with their families for Christmas...

It has surprised me how many people think that I will return to New Zealand for christmas... the shock on their faces when I inform that actually I won't be seeing my family until after my exchange in June... is pretty amusing. As much as I would like to be with my family, a few thousand dollars for a plane ticket for a long, uncomfortable plane ride home for a few days doesn't sound THAT appealing at this stage... Maybe if I won the lotto and could take my private jet. Ha! That's something that's pretty sad! I really don't have any money after paying for this exchange, and usually, I absolutely love giving presents to all my loved ones, so that's a bit of a christmas grinch! Haha love that movie. But yeah, I have no idea what to do about presents this year. I can't really afford the postage of sending presents across to New Zealand, and my mum won't let me anyway. And what am I supposed to do about host family presents?? I have no idea. I'm sure my host dad would pretend to like something, or even be genuinely happy with anything I got him, but I think my host mum would be very difficult to buy for and my host sister already has a lot, and I believe she's quite fussy (she does not like chocolate??). Ideas anyone? 

Oh Christmas, it's the most beautiful time of the year! I'm looking forward to experiencing Christmas in another culture and will just have to be content with being with my real family via good ole technology (Skype)! There will be an extra special gift given to my family for christmas this year. A new addition to the family, with my sister due to have a beautiful baby any day now!! I'm very sad to be missing out on this but so so happy as I have been begging my sister to have a baby ever since she got married! 

I can guarantee that I will take a lot of photos of Christmas and everything that comes with it so make sure to take a look when I post them! :) 

Ahhh, Christmas is sneaking up on us so fast!! It's nearly the end of this roller coaster of a year and the beginning of another! The beginning of a new part of my life started when I arrived in Spain, but  I am still determined to make 2014 one of the best years Of my life! I hope everyone is prepared for some amazing things to come! I sure am! 

Blessings and hugs! 
Victoria-Rose 


Snowflakes on a building in Barcelona :) 


Christmas treats :) 


Mini Christmas trees :) 


Sunday, 24 November 2013

I know you've been reading my blog...

Day 79: 23/11/13

Hey you beautiful people! How are you doing?? I just wanted to share something with you! I discovered something really cool the other day! I mean I knew that most of you reading this would be my friends, family and acquaintances, people who are interested in my adventures, and who like to catch up on my blog when there's updates, but I just took a look at the statistics of my blog and saw something I didn't expect! This is the page views on my blog over the last few months. Check out some of the different countries my blog has been viewed! I don't know about you but I think that's super cool :) so if you're reading this from any of these places, you've contributed to this ;) 
EntryPageviews

New Zealand

701

Spain

506

United States

91

France

34

United Kingdom

27

Germany

24

Latvia

23

Australia

15

Belgium


I hope everyone has been enjoying reading my blog! It takes a lot of time to gather my thoughts so I am not able to write that often, but when I do I try to make sure that it doesn't bore anyone to death :b 


Here's a sweet picture I took as a nice way to finish my short post :) 




12



Thursday, 14 November 2013

Friends like these

Day: 70? (Who knows) 14/11/13

So it is past the 2 month mark now and I have been through some tough challenges but as you can see, I'm still here :p i have survived so far! In fact I think I'm doing more than surviving, I've had some really awesome moments here in Spain and it is becoming easier to find these moments. Dare i say that I'm proud of how far I've come and how much bravery and tenacity I've had throughout these past few weeks, yes i believe i can. Of course I've had to do a lot of it on my own but I can't help but mention how grateful I am to have found some amazing friends in two other girls also from the AFS exchange program. 



We are a group of 3, from different sides of the world, there is ┼Żanete who is from Latvia, Katerina from Switzerland and myself, from New Zealand. The thought of this amazes me - how we can be from totally different sides of the world but this one, crazy thing that we have decided to do, has connected us all together in the same place and at the same time. We are each here for our own reasons and purposes, we will all go through our own completely different experience, and we are like the complete opposites of each other, but some how, we understand each other, and we just seem to fit together like a puzzle (is that cliche enough for you :p) 

I should probably mention that we had only meet each other twice before we became good friends, and only three times before we felt comfortable sharing the same bed, of sending hideous photos of ourselves to each other and now I would trust them with anything. They're my girls and I feel like I have been missing out on their awesome companionship all this time! 

 
Just two weeks ago we went out on a girls night to Barcelona, to have dinner and just enjoy the beautiful city! We put on our dresses and heels for the night and had some delicious salads and some great laughs! Walking arm and arm down the Main Street, all dolled up, speaking English, and giggling our heads off sure turned some heads! 


But yeah, just if anyone was wondering how i was doing friend-wise, if I was a loner or if I was hanging out with all the popular kids, I have to managed to find myself the best friends I could have asked for. I didn't mention that they speak like perfect English, so I don't have to continuously explain my jokes until it becomes awkward and not even funny anymore. They get me! Seriously though, I was beginning to worry that I would lose my sense of humour here, I have a quick mind in English but it takes me so long to process things in Spanish. 

But yeah, if you are thinking about doing an exchange, make friends in your other AFS companions!! #bestchoiceever 




"There's no place I'd rather be than to have you crazy freaks with me!" Xx