Hostels for the Holidays

This past Thanksgiving was the first time I have spent a major holiday away from my family. Chileans may be familiar with “el día de la acción de gracias,” but it is certainly not celebrated here. Seriously, I couldn’t even find a box of stuffing or a butter ball turkey on the shelf of the local supermarket. It was definitely strange to be away from home on such a significant holiday.

All semester I have pushed myself to learn and adapt to Chilean customs and traditions. This is something I really enjoy doing and is a large part of the study abroad experience, but it can be exhausting being out of your comfort zone for so long. Sometimes you just want someone who understands, who you don’t have to explain things to, and who relates to the feeling of misplacement and homesickness on a day like Thanksgiving.

Throughout Thanksgiving day,  I  yearned to be with my own family on one of my favorite holidays of the year. I even felt guilt for not being home– who else was going to make the sweet potato casserole, or set the table, or take care of all those leftovers in the fridge? I can’t even bear to think of how lonely the dessert table must have felt without its most loyal visitor.

Despite my wishes, I had set very low expectations for my Thanksgiving in Chile. It was supposed to be a travel day from Puerto Natales, Chile to Calafate, Argentina. However, we ended up not being able to get seats on any of the buses, so we learned mid-day that we would be stuck in Puerto Natales for another night. After scrambling for space in a hostel, we finally found a couple spots in a dorm and made our way over.

We set our things in our room, met our American roommates, and I hopped on Instagram and began scrolling through stories of food spreads, full plates, and family games. It was practically taunting, but was the dose of FOMO I needed to realize I didn’t have to miss out on one of my favorite holidays just because I wasn’t in the US.

We went to the grocery store, bought chicken, instant mashed potatoes, and ingredients for pebre, a Chilean salsa served at nearly every lunch (so maybe our meal wasn’t exactly “traditional,” but it worked for us!). After preparing everything in the hostel’s shared kitchen, we took our plates into the living area and joined the other guests snacking on salami, peanuts, and other trail snacks as they prepared for their Torres del Paine treks. Realizing we were all Americans, everyone raised a glass in the air and exchanged a “Happy Thanksgiving!”

It sure wasn’t my normal celebration, but I certainly was thankful.

Adventures, Thanksgiving and Thankfulness of the Adventure

¡Amigos!

I’ve now been stationary in Alicante the past three weeks and wow, has it been busy!

Last week we finished up our last week of normal classes at CIEE as the next few bring presentations, paper writing, review sessions and final exams. I write, now, with the knowledge of exactly 3 remaining weeks. I cannot fathom that fact. It’s going too fast!

Just the other day, one of my host family members asked me if I was ready to return to the United States. My answer? “No.” A week, or two, ago my response would have been along the lines of, “I’m getting ready…” but the present truth is not that. It’s hard to imagine returning home and quite possibly never seeing the majority of my fellow students and new friends, the professors, program directors and my host family, ever again. I don’t even want to think about that. Leaving home and Hope in August was hard enough, but I can only imagine what it will be like leaving Spain.

As for the recent adventures? They’ve all taken place here in the province of Alicante. Like I had mentioned before, I was able to spend a weekend with my parents! We had such a great time. I must say it is kind of strange having parents come visit your “new life.” – but a fun weekend, nonetheless.

Last weekend, myself and five friends took a quick day trip and rode the tram to the very last stop, a small town called Dénia. We visited the castle, there, walked along the pier, which felt like a little slice of home (Holland State Park), and had paella and tapas for lunch. “Muy typical eSpanish.”

Dénia Castle
Dénia Castle
Dénia Pier
Dénia Pier

Another fun little tidbit for my Literature and Film class, I went with my classmates and professor to see the new Hunger Games movie! Having felt slightly deprived of American Culture, it was very nice! It was the first time I’d been to a movie theatre since being here and I was extremely surprised by its resemblance to an American cinema. We watched the movie in its original version, but with Spanish subtitles.

And Thanksgiving… let me tell you. Just another reason for me to rave about my CIEE program. Early that morning, all students went to lesson on making Turrón. Turrón is a typical Spanish Christmas treat. Similar to Christmas cookies, for us Americans. We taste tested all different types and then made cookies! Mine failed miserably, but hey, it was all for the fun! But the best part of the day came later.

Taller de Turrón
Taller de Turrón

Our student services director did a more than fabulous job collaborating with a restaurant out on the marina at the Regata Club, putting together a delicious and oh-so American Thanksgiving meal. It was just another obvious example of how much the program cares about each and every one of us. Our directors both spoke and made sure that all of us students knew that we have become part of their Spanish families and that they were honored to be sharing an American tradition with us, in their country. Then 6 students spoke and shared their thankfulness. Needless to say, it was amazing. And even after Skyping with family back home and realizing that I couldn’t be there with them on this day, I was overjoyed with thankfulness to be with my new family.

CIEE Alicante students, Fall 2014
CIEE Alicante students, Fall 2014

That’s all for now, friends. I hope each of you had as wondeful of a Thanksgiving as we did here in Spain.

Hasta luego.