Back in Trujillo!

After my extended break home to wrap up some loose ends, I am finally back in Trujillo. The past couple weeks have been mostly me trying to adjust to the time difference, dealing with the culture shock of coming back, and settling back in.

Which of course means visiting the castle at sunset and listening to Castle on a Hill courtesy of Ed Sheeran. Austin and I have decided that that song perfectly describes our life here in Trujillo and it will essentially be our anthem for the next four months.

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Spending time here on the weekend also allows us to go back to trekking through the countryside to the places we have yet to visit, such as the ruins below. We can see them from the castle but have always wondered what exactly they were. Closer inspection of them revealed absolutely no clues, but we did have a lovely time in the meadow behind the ruins. It was blanketed by these purple and yellow flowers which made it a lovely place to sit and hang out for awhile this afternoon.

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Coming back to Spain does mean tackling the nine hour time difference once again, so it really was no surprise to me that I spent the first week back running on 2-4 hours of sleep during the night and then passing out for an extended siesta (usually another 2-4 hours of sleep) during the afternoon. Being up so early every morning, combined with the late sunrise meant that I had plenty of time to wander around Trujillo taking dawn photos of the castle and its resident storks who have finally returned to Trujillo.

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The Western European Stork has a nine month migration pattern (supposedly) which sprouted the old legend that we have in the States about storks bringing babies. They’re supposed to come up to Western Europe in March, stay for a few months and then head back down to different parts of Africa for the winter months. I guess these storks decided it was warm enough to come home early because the storks are starting to repopulate their nests here in Trujillo and it is quite a sight.

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More dawn photos around Trujillo, the lighting was just lovely.

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Storks use the same nest for 3-4 years so many of these nests have been sitting empty in Trujillo the whole time Austin and I have been here, meaning that we have been anxiously awaiting for them to come and repopulate their nests.

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We also convinced one of our Argentina friends to join us in Spain (they had a few extra openings) so she arrived at the beginning of January when I was supposed to return. We went and visited her as soon as we could, reuniting the three of us for the first time since our escapades in Argentina, almost all of which she joined us for.

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Villanueva de la Serena is about a 45 minute drive away from Trujillo so Austin and I grabbed a blablacar down to visit her and had a really awesome chat with the blablacar driver. We both got out of the car impressed that we’d been able to hold up a forty five minute conversation in Spanish that spanned everything from politics to pop culture to sports injuries. She was a physical therapist so she and I bonded over how troublesome it is when patients refuse to stop playing sports when they’re injured (me being the troublesome patient, her being the troubled physical therapist of course). Austin found that part of the conversation particularly funny as he’d been trying to tell me that I should take a day off from soccer after getting a particularly bad bone bruise on my ankle at our soccer game a couple weeks ago.

Anyways, Villanueva is a huge town compared to Trujillo but still quite small compared to cities near me in the US. Nonetheless, a week in Trujillo made me feel like a country girl in the big city as we walked down the store lined streets of Villanueva, there was SO MUCH shopping there! Clothes stores everywhere, all sorts of different places to eat, it was amazing. About a mile down the road or so from Villanueva de la Serena is Don Benito which is even bigger than Villanueva with even more shopping. We had fun touring both cities while we visited our friend though neither were nearly as picturesque as Trujillo.

We took a slightly roundabout trip home from Villanueva, first taking a train to Merida, then switching trains and taking a different one to Caceres, and then catching a bus back to Trujillo. Despite the roundabout route, it was incredibly fun because we were on a train. And I love trains.

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We also saw this lovely statue in Caceres with all sorts of meaning that can be drawn from the beam connecting the two dancers. Or you could just say it’s there for structural support. We had about an hour in Caceres before our bus left so we found some food in a little bakery that had amazing empanadas that actually tasted like Argentine empanadas and the best berry muffin I’ve ever eaten.

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Trujillo, like California, turns green in the winter. So it’s absolutely gorgeous here right now with the added bonus of not having to deal with endless flooding.

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This is probably my favorite stork in the city. His nest is perched on the tallest chimney of Francisco Pizarro’s house in the main plaza and he just chills up there all day like a boss, looking down on all of us in the square.

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Fewer photos in this blog but more thoughts tagged onto the end of it, I’ve got some catch up to do from before Christmas.

Before Christmas my elementary school put together an adorable little Christmas pageant where each grade level stood on stage and sang a song, my fifth graders were especially daring and sang in both english and spanish. Such good kids. I didn’t have any classes at the high school on the day of the pageant so I was able to join them on the bus as we headed out of the town to the Centro de Menores (Minors Center) where the pageant was being held since they had a large stage. On the way there one of my teachers explained to me that the Center was a place for all the students to stay who either didn’t have parents or who, for whatever reason, couldn’t stay with their parents during the week. This could be as simple as their parents live on a farm out in the middle of the countryside and don’t have a way of getting their child to school each day, or it could be because there isn’t a stable household for the child to return home to. This Centro was coed but my teacher explained to me that there was another Centro within Trujillo that was an all girls house. Because they’re Spaniards (and far far fewer topics of conversation are taboo), they had no problem telling me which of my students lived either part-time or full time at these centers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the students who acted out most often at school were also the ones who lived in these centers. I had no idea that these places still existed, the teachers all say it’s not ideal but that it’s the only solution the Spaniards have as they don’t have any sort of foster care system in place. The Centros are staffed by folks with degrees in counseling, psychiatry or education and stay at the centers almost full time. The students who live there each have their own little house with two bedrooms (four students per hours), and a little living area, meals are all had communally. Learning about the Centros was another interesting insight into the Spanish life that I never would have known about, and I’m super thankful that the teacher told me about it. She teaches math to the students so I don’t often work with her directly, nor does she speak any english, but I feel like she and I are buddies nonetheless and she always says hi to me at school and checks in with me.

Instead of saying Secret Santa/Snowflake, the Spaniards call it “Invisible Friend,” but I don’t know how invisible it actually is since everyone tells who they got the present for when everyone gets each other presents. Of course, assuming I didn’t understand what the invisible friend was, all the girls tried to convince me to tell them who I had for weeks before we actually exchanged presents. It was absolutely hilarious. My friend on the soccer team ended up choosing me and I absolutely loved the gift she got me. She found a little thing of New York perfume from one of the super markets which was sweet and coincidentally my favorite scent (vanilla) and then she got me some soccer stuff. For the first few months of soccer practice I would tie my laces together and carry my shoes to practice over my shoulder. She apparently noticed this and so she bought me a bag to put my cleats in so I wouldn’t have to carry them over my shoulder anymore which I thought was hilarious. She also got me a really nice pair of soccer socks  which was more helpful than I realized since I apparently gave all of mine to the goodwill/trash can last time I went through my clothes. The invisible friend was really fun for all of us and we all had dinner together at the pizzeria before I went back to the United States for Christmas vacation.

I timed my return to Trujillo just on time for me to make our soccer game the weekend I came back. We often don’t have enough players and I didn’t want to miss too many games. While we lost the game by a lot, I still enjoyed the game despite getting slide tackled by my goalie and ending up with the most painful and colorful bruise I think I’ve ever received. But the best part of that game was when I had a nice chat with the ref about a slight difference in the rule between American and European soccer. Obviously I don’t always know the differences in customs between the countries and the girls don’t either, so during games is most often where I find out about little rule changes or plays that are done differently and this game was no exception. As a defender I often jump in front of shots in an attempt to spare my goalie the heart attack and out of habit I always cross my arms over my chest for a little added protection. I did that on one shot which ended up missing me and going in, though it glanced off my elbow. The ref, as we re-set the field came up to me and told me that I couldn’t block the ball with my hands there, that it would be considered a handball. He then told me that I could only use my hands to cover my balls like the men do, since that wasn’t considered a handball. Because apparently womens’ nonexistent balls need protection. Needless to say I spent a few hours fuming about how unfair that was and then joking about it with all of my friends in the States.

Being back in Spain during the reign of Trump has been a buffer against all of what’s truly happening in the US. While I keep up with the news regularly and my friends keep me well informed of what’s going on, the distance is tangible. Our friends and acquaintances in Spain often comment on what’s going on, and Austin and I often bring up Trump’s “policies” in our adult Spanish conversation classes because we’re curious as to what their reactions are. The distance and the quiet has also given me the space and time to think and process that I’ve been so desperately needing. It’s amazing how different it feels to be here than it did in California and although at first the culture shock hit me quite hard I’ve been feeling much, much better this past week. Although, that might also be because I’ve been baking a ton of super yummy treats. The most interesting thing I’ve noticed since being back, however, is how often I find myself leaving the apartment specifically so that I don’t have internet. When I have internet I feel like I’m constantly waiting, waiting for my friends to message me, waiting to hear back from grad schools, always feeling slightly disappointed when I don’t receive anything. So to suspend the disappointment for a few hours and take some quiet time for myself, I spend sunny afternoons sitting on one of the castle walls reading books and listening to the sheep in the fields below.

When I first got back, Austin and I calculated how much time we had left together and reviewed all of our upcoming trips. We began talking about all the things we would miss about Spain, about being roommates, things we weren’t looking forward to when we returned and such. And I know I’ll miss our nightly dinners and our aimless wandering around the countryside, but I’ll also miss having the ability to just walk away from the grid and disconnect myself completely whenever I want. I’ll miss letting everything go and watching the sun set over the caste on a hill.

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