Monday, December 31, 2012

roma, roma bella

My Christmas present to myself was a plane ticket to Rome, for a holiday in February. It will probably be the only international trip I take while I'm here, so I'm pretty excited. And nervous, and tied up in knots: I love Rome. I hate Rome. I have a very complicated relationship with Rome, more so than any of the other cities I've felt that magnetic, needle-to-a-pole attraction to.

The first time I visited Rome was the winter after I studied abroad in Lisbon. I'd been to Italy once before, but never made it south of Tuscany. I didn't have many expectations of Rome, to be honest; I was just looking forward to seeing the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Forum, the Vatican, all the history-nerd highlights.

What I found was this fucking magical fairy land. It was cold, sure, but there was a Christmas market in the Piazza Navona, and hot chocolate tasting like cinnamon and oranges, and pasta con cacio e pepe, probably my favorite dish in the entire world. I walked down empty streets, touching ochre-plastered walls and following strands of lights to the one restaurant near Campo dei Fiori that was open on Christmas Day. I drank red wine by the Tiber, with a man who showed me the scar from when he'd wrecked his Vespa. Like I said, magical fairy land.

Back in the States, I decided I was going back, come hell or high water. I won a scholarship to pursue an internship internationally, and in June of 2009, I flew into Fiumicino for the first time.

To say that things were different would be a hell of an understatement. It was hot and dusty and choked with packs of tourists from every corner of the globe. I didn't click with many people in my program, so I spent most of my summer exploring by myself, trying not to collapse from dehydration or situational agoraphobia.

My job didn't help, either. I'd come to Rome hoping to soak up some culture, speak Italian, talk to people. I ended up sitting in a room by myself, with a single window, cataloging a research institute's archive of films on modern Italian history. So the parts with Mussolini, Hitler, la Shoah (the Holocaust), labor riots, anarchists, and economic paralysis. I did work with three wonderful, inspiring women, but it was hard for me to get excited about it when all I did was watch films about some of the bleakest moments in human history. The field trip I took with my mentor to "get me out a bit" was to the Ardeatine Caves, where 335 Romans were murdered by the Nazis as a reprisal for a partisan attack. The caves were then collapsed on top of the corpses, to hide the execution site. (Read more here.)

When I look back on that summer, I'm not sorry I went. I learned a lot, about Rome and Italy: no place's history is all white ruins, sunflowers, and pasta. I also learned about the kind of working environment I need to be happy. I will never enjoy a job where all I do is stare at a computer in silence. I do have a lone wolf streak (well, lone wolf with canine tag-along), but I need interaction with other people to stay sane. To bring in another Italian, one quote that's always stuck with me is from Italo Calvino's Il barone rampante (translated not at all literally as The Baron in the Trees): the narrator describes his brother, the baron in question, as "un solitario che amava la compagnia," "a solitary man who loved company." While I am obviously a lady-person, that description fits me well. My summer in Rome was too heavy on la solitudine and too light on la compagnia.

But despite all that learning, by the time I was getting on the plane to fly back to DC, I was overwhelmingly grateful that it was over.

So when I realized that I'd be able to manage just the one big trip this year, why was Rome the only place I seriously considered going? I have no idea. I think it's because Rome and I have some unfinished business. Or because, as my mom told me once, I never give up on things when I should. Or because I'm going in the touristic wasteland of February. Or because I miss Pecorino-drenched pasta. I don't know. But I'm going.

one of the comparatively few highlights of my summer was becoming a regular at this osteria

Saturday, December 29, 2012

trust the way

route marker
One of the first times I  saw Galicia was in the movie "The Way," starring everyone's favorite president, Martin Sheen. He hikes the Camino de Santiago in memory of his son, encountering a rag-tag cast of misfits, tobacco addicts, and aspiring James Joyces. To my great disappointment, Lugo did not make an appearance in Mr. President's route--he took the most popular route, the Camino Francés, or French Way. In 2011, an impressive 132,652 pilgrims walked it, as opposed to 22,062 for the second-most popular route, the Portuguese Way.

Lugo likes to fly a lil' more under the radar. It's located on the Camino Primitivo, or Primitive Way. A mere 5,544 pilgrims, accounting for 3.02% of the the total, took it to Santiago in 2011. (If you'd like to check out more stats, look here. Pretty cool stuff.)

A few weeks ago, I noticed one of the shells that mark the Camino in the park.

crossing the river
We haven't gone all that far down it, but the section of the Camino that goes from the park into the city has become one of our favorite walks. This time of year, there aren't any pilgrims, but it's still pretty cool to walk the same path as thousands of others have done.

pilgrims' first view of Lugo

Thursday, December 27, 2012

merry merry

I will be the first to tell you that I'm not big on Christmas. I don't like hearing the same 16 songs every time I venture a toe out of my door. I get insanely stressed over buying people the "perfect" present, and dread having to fake happiness over getting gifts I don't want myself. I gag on the fake peace on earth, goodwill to men sentiment--where is it the other eleven months of the year? And Santa can keep his judgment over my naughtiness to himself.

However, since this was my first Christmas in Spain (although not, in fact, the first time I've peaced out on it to gallivant around Europe), I decided to give it the good ol' college try. I found Christmas-themed crafts for my classes (although not, you know, stupid ones; we learned about modern art and made Kandinsky-inspired Christmas trees) (the example would do double-duty as my apartment's tree, taped to the wall in the kitchen). I wished people felices fiestas. I hunted YouTube for Christmas videos, and planned lessons based around them. I hummed this awful song a couple of times. I helped a friend shop for lingerie as a Christmas present for her boyfriend. I even pitched in womanfully with my school's Christmas pageant, translating things and coaching English accents and trying to keep the kids from crying when the other teachers screamed at them.

the fourth and third graders, who are my most beloved students. note the mini-pilgrim on the right, who pronounced all of his English lines perfectly!

And then, I even went to work on a Friday (!!) to watch the blasted thing and wish all my little monstermonkeys a merry Christmas. They were pretty cute, so I guess it was worth it.

the sixth graders: Little Red Riding Hood and her erm, deep-voiced grandmother

Thus, Friday was my last day of work, and then it was off to vacation! And stressing about Christmas shopping.

G. guards her granddad's present
Fortunately, Gwen did great as Team Moral Support. Christmas itself was thankfully low-key--I cooked a mountain of food, we opened presents, we drank wine. At least I don't have a family that tries to shove good cheer down my throat. It was nice enough, I guess, but I'm glad it's over so I can think about more interesting things.

...I promise I'm not an awful person. I just don't like Christmas very much.

PS. Over 2,000 hits, wow! Thank y'all so much. I am honored and amazed that so many of you have visited my blog, and shared a part of Gwen's and my adventures in Galicia. (Although I know who you're all here for, and I seriously doubt it's me.)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

arrivals hall

requisite pic on Beta Bridge for graduation. wahoo wa!
My dad and my godmom got here last night. They'll be staying for a few weeks, keeping me company through a Spanish Christmas and the New Year. We don't see eye-to-eye on everything (Paul Ryan, fiscal policy, the age at which I should be settled down a max of 40 miles from the paternal homestead), but I love them both lots.

As awesome at is was to have my mom fly over with me, it also wasn't the best in terms of relaxation and enjoyment--I was constantly stressing about where I was going to live and omg foreign country, plus I had no idea what the cool things were to do. (Do I now? Debatable.) I'm super-excited to have the opportunity to share a more settled, do-this-not-that, go-here-not-there, version of my life in Galicia with my dad and my godmom.

my dad's hobbies include classy things like foxhunting. mine include wearing pink rainboots.
my godmom drives carriages, while I wear fedoras and gaze into the distance.

And maybe now I'll actually go see some of Galicia, instead of staying in Lugito and gorging on free tapas.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

look out

stained glass
It's been a while since I've posted any pictures from the park. Sorry y'all. It's been pretty rainy the last couple of weeks, so Gwen and I haven't been hiking as much. But here you are.

Also, I played hooky from the private lesson I was supposed to have today. I should feel bad, but mostly I'm just enjoying an unexpected free afternoon.

danger, danger

Sunday, December 9, 2012

order up

good dog
This is kind of counter-intuitive, but now that it's gotten cold, I take the Gwenmonster out with me a lot more. Her single, solitary flaw is that she can be a little, erm, enthusiastic about other dogs. And when we got here, the weather was so nice, every family dog in Lugo was out frisking in the plazas and lurking under cafe chairs. The constant gauntlet of dogs made it a bit challenging to enjoy a relaxing café con leche or glass of Rioja, so Gwen had to stay at home, no matter how many sad, Mom-I'm-such-a-good-dog-why-don't-you-love-me-anymore eyes she gave me.

But now, cold and slow, dripping, misty rain is the norm. For some incomprehensible reason, Spaniards and their dogs don't seem to be flocking to outdoor seating areas in quite the same numbers.

Gwen and I are quite happy to take their places. There are a few cafes with heaters for their outdoor tables (one in the Praza Maior even offers cozy fleece blankets), so we've been rotating between them. At one place, Gwen has made friends with the waiter, who offers her ham from the tray he brings around to the humans.

What a hard life.

standard order

Saturday, December 1, 2012

struggle well

Christmas decorations have gone up!
 Remember how I moved to Spain, even though I've never taken a Spanish class in my life? (Okay, fine, I had a four-week rotation in seventh grade, when my school was letting us try out all of its foreign languages; but needless to say, I picked French, so my Spanish never progressed past "Hola, Señora.")

So, after two and a half months, I think it's time to talk about speaking Spanish.

When I arrived, I could ask for directions, order coffee, and exchange basic pleasantries and personal information ("I'm an American from Virginia," "Virginia is close to Washington, D.C.," "No, it's not close to New York or Los Angeles"). This was about it. But nonetheless, I had to accomplish things like acquiring a cellphone and a pet-friendly apartment. I managed to blunder through with a combination of big smiles, apologies for my abysmal Spanish, and friends who went to the real estate agent's office with me.

I've improved a lot since then. I can have actual conversations--real ones, about real things, like the general strike,* or Thanksgiving, or what I did last weekend--and use more than one verb in more than one past tense. I would estimate that, as long as people speak clearly, and directly to me, I can understand 80-90% of what they say.

All of this represents an incredible improvement from when I arrived. I've gotten there the old-fashioned way: by speaking Spanish. At school, I almost entirely communicate in Spanish (with the teachers, obviously, not the students). When I hang out with Spanish-speakers, I don't let myself stay in the huddle of expatriates. And I'm lucky in that no one speaks English in Lugo, so if I'm at a shoe store and need to try a size 38 in the boots I want, it's not like I can wimp out. The same goes for the bus station, or the grocery store, or my Internet provider's office. I have to struggle on through. This is incredibly valuable experience, for anyone trying to learn a foreign language.

Still, I feel so awful sometimes, when I'm struggling so, so hard to make myself understood, and the words are just not coming out. I feel so stupid. I feel like I'm wasting people's time.

I know the only thing I can do is keep trying (or go home, I guess, but I don't want to do that). But sometimes, it's hard.

Also, these pictures have nothing to do with this post. Sorry I don't have any reaction shots of Spaniards' faces when I (try to) talk to them to share instead. That'd be funnier.

a happier time

*Please not that shit did not get this real in Lugo. Lugo's strike was such a non-event it was comical.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

a Spanish Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving happened last Thursday. It's the first Thanksgiving I've ever spent away from my family--even when I studied abroad in Portugal, my mom flew over and roasted me a chicken. I was expecting it to be a little weirder (/sadder/more-homesickness-inducing) than it was, so I guess that's a good thing.

A bunch of friends and I gathered in an apartment, cooked two chickens (whole turkeys have to be pre-ordered, and we missed the crucial window of opportunity) and a mountain of side dishes and desserts, and enjoyed Thanksgiving, Spanish-style. No turkey, no cranberry sauce, no gravy, no pumpkin pie, but I didn't care, since I was surrounded by people I feel genuinely thankful to have in my life.

carving the "turkey"
On that note, I thought I'd share five things about living here, that I'm thankful for.

1. Having this opportunity at all. I feel so incredibly blessed to be writing this post from my kitchen in Lugo. Outside of this program, it's virtually impossible for a post-collegiate American to legally live and work in Spain. I won't lie and say that I absolutely love every part of being an auxiliar at my school, but even on the bad days, I'm thankful that I have the chance to be here.

2. Having friends who I feel like I can rely on. When you're alone in a foreign country, a time zone or two away from your family and your best friends, you rely on the friends you make there. They become your support network, your strength, the people you can fall back on when you're having a rough time. I have been fortunate enough to find friends like that here in Lugo.

3. Having Gwen with me. (This is a gimme.) She is a constant source of comfort, love, and wet-nosed kisses. And a great motivation for getting outside and soaking up some Lucense air (sometimes rain) instead of vegetating in my apartment.

4. Living in Lugo. I love this place, from the Roman wall to the spiderwebs of trails to the tree-lined street I live on. It's not a great place to be a tourist, but to live? Hard to beat the low cost of living and free tapas. I can always go to museums somewhere else.

5. The shockingly cheap cost of produce. In Spain, food that's good for you is cheap. I got five apples for 1.08 last week, four oranges for 0.94. And both of them were the fancy varietals, not the bargain-basement ones. The same goes for fish and meat. This is unheard of in America.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

walk at night


I only discovered this square a week or so ago. While the massive, anonymous government building to the right is classic Lugo, I think the fountains are unique--they have a kind of playfulness that I haven't seen anywhere else. This is one of my favorite places to just sit, and watch the world.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

paisley and the pup

Confession time: I'm kind of a home-decor nut. I do things like sketch room designs, sew throw pillows, paint, and sand down chairs for fun. HGTV is my favorite channel (David Bromstad anyone?), and a not-small part of me wishes I'd studied design. I love making spaces beautiful.

My apartment here is not beautiful. Think blank white walls, mismatched furniture, scratched parquet floors, and rust stains on the side of the refrigerator. It's been difficult to balance my need to live in a space I think is beautiful, with the transiency of this position and my limited budget. So far, I've been leaning heavily to the don't-spend-money-you're-moving-in-a-year side.

But this weekend, I dared to step into Zara Home. With Gwen refusing to sleep on the floor (what is she, a dog or something?), my comforter was starting to look a little battered, and I decided that a duvet cover was a practical investment: first, I'd be able to wash it, without needing a week of line-drying; second, I could find something that would do a better job of camouflaging dog hair; and, third, gosh darn it, I just wanted something that made my room feel like home, like someplace I would choose to spend time.

Gwen approves
I ended up with paisley, which is my favorite print ever. It may sound silly--it's just a duvet cover, fer Chrissakes!--but I feel so happy every time I walk into my room now. So was it a bit of a splurge? Yes. But was it worth it? Definitely.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

drum solo

the Praza Maior, by the Círculo das Artes

Lugo’s 23rd annual Jazz Festival is going on right now (who knew jazz has such a venerable history here?). On Saturday night, some friends and I went to a show at the Círculo das Artes, or the Art Circle, a performing-arts venue in the city center.

inside the concert venue. it's a classy joint.
I’m no expert on jazz by any means, but it was nice to do something so different from my normal Lucense pastimes.  According to the program, the quintet we saw was touring in homage to Miles Davis, so it was understandably trumpet-solo-heavy. But the drummer stole the show! His final solo was one of the most impressive things I’ve ever heard. The entire venue seemed to be holding its breath until he finished, then erupted into whistles and applause. I love that about live music—the feeling that you, and three hundred other people, are just so incredibly focused on one moment, one performer.

After the show finished up, we reverted to form and headed out to grab a drink and a tapa. My friend Katie took us to a new bar, where they have—wait for it, wait for it—wings! No bourbon sauce, of course, but I was so happy to be standing in a bar in Spain, with wings to go along with my Estrella Galicia beer.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

for a change of pace

sky, river
On Friday, I showed another auxiliar and his girlfriend around my home away from home, the park. It was chilly and threatening rain when we started out, but soon enough the weather did one of its lightning changes, and it turned into the kind of golden-sun, soft-cloud, cold-cheeked fall day that I love so much. We ended up going farther than I'd been before, and made it all the way to the Rat River's big brother, the Minho.

sky, birch
Other than the requisite hiking, I think (fingers crossed, knock on wood) that I've finally beaten the sickness that's been keeping me down for the last couple of weeks. So I get to start running again, which has been wonderful. I don't do very well without running as a stable, centering force in my life.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

driveby photo Wednesday

photos from the park, continued
Wednesday and Thursday are long days. Wednesdays I work a half day at school, then have a two-hour private lesson. Thursdays I work the whole day at school (with only one period off! the horror! it's like I already forgot I've been working 40-60 hours a week for the last two years) and tomorrow I'll be adding another private class to my oh-so-packed schedule. So all I really feel up to right now is posting that photo, typing five sentences, and sipping my obligatory glass of wine.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Thanks to its Celtic influences, Galicia takes Halloween pretty seriously. Lugo had a couple of city-wide events, both for children and ahem, us older folks. My school had a Samhain (the name of the Galician holiday, even though Halloween seems to be more colloquial) corner, complete with cut-outs of flying witches and jack-o'lanterns. Most of the kids planned to dress up and go to either parties, or one of the events in Lugo.

Even so, it isn't celebrated to the extent that Halloween is in the US. But my roommate Cindy and I still didn't have any problems finding plenty of festive swag for our living room. Because, of course, we hosted a Halloween party!

the charming hostesses
I had a lot of fun trying to explain my costume to our Spanish guests. (And they were all guys, so of course some of them were like, "But why would you need women in the government?" followed by some type of wink.)

After Halloween came All Saints' Day, which meant that we got Thursday and Friday off of school. We had grand plans of going hiking in a neighboring province, but those were wrecked by an abysmal weather forecast; and then our scaled-down plan to take a day trip to Santiago was nixed by my waking up to a disgusting virus on Friday, which continues to linger. Ugh.

Gwen dressed up as a loba (look for her costume inspiration around 1:54)
In other exciting news, as of Saturday morning, we have Internet at our apartment! We should probably throw another party just 'cause of that.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

mi colegio

As you probably know, I'm part of the North American Language and Cultural Assistants program. In return for a (very) modest living stipend and legal residency in Spain, I work twelve hours a week at a Spanish elementary school, assisting with English and plurilingual classes.

So far, I think I've been fairly lucky with my school. It's located in a small town that seems to be mostly occupied by farm animals and sleepy German Shepherds, which is a twenty-minute drive (add ten minutes if taking the bus) outside of Lugo proper. Some assistants have to commute as much as two hours to their towns, so I feel very fortunate that mine is so close by.

Spanish elementary schools, which are called colegios,  have students as young as three years old and as old as twelve. I spend at least an hour a week with each grade, sometimes with the English teacher, and sometimes in art classes, which my school has designated as its "plurilingual" subject. All Spanish schools are technically bilingual, with English and Spanish; because Galicia has an indigenous language, we're plurilingual, and in theory spend 33% of our time in Castilian Spanish, 33% in English, and 33% in Galician. I'm sure you can all imagine how well that works. Not. Which leads to one of my biggest issues at my school so far: the level of English.

I was certainly not expecting my students to all be great at English. But I would have expected that, by the fourth grade, they would be able to respond to basic questions like "How are you?" and "What's your favorite color?" This is not the case. Some of them can, of course, but I would say that a solid three-fourths of the classes stare at me in glassy-eyed confusion whenever I ask them anything. My teacher says this is because they're lazy, bad students, but I think it has a bit more to do with rock-bottom expectations, added to her own erm, difficulties with the English language.

I don't want to say that my teacher can't speak English. She can, kind of, speak well enough to carry on a basic conversation. Honestly, though, if I were getting paid an actual salary to teach a foreign language, I would be ashamed if I spoke and understood it as poorly as she does. Most of the time, what she teaches (or what the book teaches) isn't wrong, per se, but it's laughably far away from anything approaching the English that any human speaks or writes. Whenever I bring up an issue about that, she just claims it's because she teaches British English, and I'm American. Sigh.

As frustrating as my school's English capability is, the thing that is, without a doubt, the most difficult for me to deal with is the very different way teachers have of, erm, motivating their students. In the US, I think most teachers try to be positive and inspire their students to do better. In Spain, however, they seem to spend a lot more time shaming their students. At one point or another, every single teacher I've worked with, has straight up told their classes that they are lazy, that they are bad, that they are stupid, that they will never amount to anything. One of the most awkward moments of my time in Spain came when the English teacher told me to pick the best and the worst students in the first-grade class, right in front of them. I wouldn't do it, and she acted like I was the weird one.

I had been warned about this before starting at my school, but I still wasn't prepared for the reality of a teacher yelling at a six-year-old that he isn't ever going to do anything worthwhile with his life. I can't understand the thought process behind treating children like that; how on earth is that supposed to motivate them to work harder? Or to work at all? I don't think a six-year-old has the mental maturity to set out to prove everyone wrong. So, with a few of the kids, it's this awful spiral where they act out, the teacher tells them they're worthless, they act out again, the teacher repeats that they are slime, on and on and on. It's incredibly hard for me to watch.

Despite all of this, though, my school has been more than welcoming to me. The teachers are very friendly, and have been willing to help me with everything from figuring out my postal code to finding a place to buy sheets for my bed. I can yammer about education policy and teaching strategies until I go blue in the face, but let's be real, I'm not going to change anything.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I do other things than go for walks in the woods.

saffron flowers
But not that many things. I was going to write a real post today, but then pictures of the woods distracted me.


imagining gnomes

Friday, October 19, 2012

fall colors

It's really fall. (Or, as my students' textbooks all say, autumn.) The last couple of days have been cold and typically rainy, but today is the kind of bright, crisp fall day that I look forward to all year. I'm sitting outside one of the cafes by my building right now, and it's a little chilly without a coat, but I want to spend as much time as I can outside right now. I know the Galician rain will resume before too much longer.

People keep assuring me that the leaves in Galicia turn colors, like the ones in Virginia, but I haven't seen too many yet. It's okay. That makes the ones I do encounter even more exciting.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

san froidance

I was lucky enough to arrive in time for the festival of Lugo’s patron saint, San Froilan, which ran from October 4th to 12th. I’m going to frame this post by describing my attempts to do three things: 1. finally eat some pulpo a la gallega; 2. go to some of the plethora of free concerts; and 3. figure out who the f San Froilan was.

1. Pulpo a la gallega
On Friday, the last official day of San Froilan, my roommate C and I both had the day off. We decided to head into the center to check out the Medieval Market (I take full credit/blame for that major nerd moment), and search out some lunch.

We ended up at As Cinco Vigas (shock!) where we ordered two raciones (basically a jumbo-sized tapa). One was shrimp in a spicy garlicky olive oil-y sauce, and the other was, of course, pulpo a la gallega. Predictably, it was delicious. Octopus + salt + olive oil + pepper + potatoes = happiness.

Success? Yes. (Although I must admit that if I had really been going for style points, I should have eaten my octopus at one of the food tents specifically catering to San Froilan’s insatiable hunger for pulpo.)

pulpo a la gallega
2. Free concerts!
I love music. I love live music even more, so I was super-pumped to see that San Froilan’s schedule included six or seven free concerts a day. Unfortunately, a lot of them were at kind of awkward times, so I didn’t get to as many as I would have liked; and equally unfortunately, a lot of the ones I did get to were not um, that amazing. Sorry, I am just not that excited to see old dudes in black leather doing a Spanish-language version of “Sweet Home Alabama.”

However, there were some good ones. The first night of San Froilan, one of the smaller stages featured a showcase of three local bands: Os John Deeres (pronounced “yohn deer-es”), Machina, and Terbutalina. All of them were pretty punk-influenced, which isn’t usually my thing, but they had great energy, and it was awesome to see how into it the crowd was.

Good Show No. 2 was the, ahem, “Black Music Festival,” or San Froidance. I love rap, so I was pretty curious to see how Spain interpreted one of my favorite genres. Turns out it wasn’t really rap or hip-hop at all, just a bunch of DJs playing (thankfully) non-house-based dance music. I was disappointed that ASAP Rocky and KiD CuDi didn’t end up putting in an appearance, like I was hoping, but I still had a great time dancing like a fool.

My third pick is kind of an oddball one. Last Thursday night, I was headed home at the shamefully early hour of 2 a.m. (note for parents: most people stay out until six or seven in the morning) with a few friends, when we randomly stopped by the stage in the Praza Maior. A well-known Galician band was playing some traditional music. Again, not really my thing, but the cool part was seeing all the pairs of Galician grandparents spinning each other around the plaza. At 2 a.m. (Again, parents, before you get all antsy, note that grandparents party later than I do here.) It was such a quintessentially Spanish moment. I can’t imagine something like that happening in the US.

So, success? Mostly.

the grandparents who schooled me in partying, Spanish-style

3. Figure out who on earth San Froilan was
In the early days of the festival, I asked my friend’s Spanish roommates who San Froilan was. Their answer? “An excuse to party.”

I assumed they just weren’t that up on their Catholicism, and innocently assumed the teachers at my school would be able to clue me in. The most descriptive answer I got was along the lines of “I think he was a pilgrim, and maybe he stopped here or something?”

So I decided to challenge myself to figure out who San Froilan was, by the end of the festival, without resorting to Google. I enlisted the help of friends. I asked semi-random people. (Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to ask my school’s sacerdote.) Finally, after five days of frustration, another assistant and I resorted to Wikipedia.

Turns out San Froilan is the most boring saint of all time. He was born in Lugo. He studied religion. He became a hermit. He went on a pilgrimage. He founded a couple of monasteries. He became a bishop. The end. If this dude was my patron saint, I wouldn’t be that excited about him, either.

Success? Only by cheating.
San Froilan, pilgrim-ing along

And now, it’s back to normal life in Lugo.