Paxaran’d Out (Warning: this post is a long one!)

Hola amigos! Well, I chose this title because I didn’t want to put another dull ‘Sorry I haven’t written in so long but I’m like so busy I like, just don’t have the time yeah’ so seeing as we’ve just spent the last couple of hours unloading Imanol’s Christmas hampers from his company and he asked me which of his 5 bottles of Paxaran did I prefer and therefore I had to sample them all… it was the first thing to come to mind! Would certainly recommend a mouthful or two if you’re ill or if it’s rainy and cold out…

So anyway, I’m actually not only sorry for not blogging in a long time, but also a tad irritated at myself for not doing so – this is not only to keep folk that are nice enough to read it updated, but also is going to be a reminder of my time here and the random things I thought necessary to blog about. I have much to tell. Oo. That sounded far more mysterious that it is. Sorry. Right, I’ll get on with it shall I. Apparently my last blog was the 14th November so I will consult my calender and go from there… today is Wednesday 19th December, ok here goes…

I am getting my teeth into my Spanish classes and am actually taking a lot in without realising it, although, as I may have mentioned before, the teacher we have 3 out of 4 days is, well, I’m not being mean but, well, crap. She doesn’t seem to want to teach us. But I digress. A cool thing bout these free classes I attend is they take us out on excursions which I did not expect for 15euros a year! On Wednesday 21 November we went into Bilbao and went to la Alhondiga (been there before, think I’ve mentioned it – huge old building which now houses a library, cinemas, restaurants, bars, exhibitions etc, pretty cool) so we went round there for about half an hour which, while our tutor was talking about various things, us students actually got to know each other better which was cool. There’s no English people in my class at all which is refreshing but a couple that can speak English. Then we had a guided tour around El Palacio de la Diputacion, which is a government building made of gold. It’s not but it seems it. We were in there for a good couple of hours which was interesting but knackering as you don’t realise how mentally exhausting it is trying to understand and translate 24hours a day! It’s recently hit me bigtime. Am very much looking forward to my UK visit in 5 days time – my brain needs a holiday. But now I pretty much understand 90% of things and am now on ‘e’ of the dictionary-copying project! Haha I know, sounds so sad but I am now recognising and using a ton of words beginning with a, b or c! It’s clearly a method that works for me.

That weekend I went to Sansan and the Nana and I went to see my cousin Manuel and his family – was lovely. Gorgeous village life, delicious food they cooked for us, pleasant walk around the village – was so nice to walk surrounded by fields and mountains, was so quiet and open. Forget I really do live in a city here. Athough on the outskirts and I love being on the river, it’s still very densely populated. Was a great weekend in Sansan, always is, I think this was my seventh time I have been there in 2012 – one aim on the list ticked!

The Monday after (26th Nov) me and Lucil met a new couchsurfer, a guy called Dani, who is pretty nice. Looks like a German but is definitely Espanol. The next night I was so disgusted with myself at how fat I’m getting I actually went for a run. Few of you may understand how significant this is. Or how odd. I don’t believe in running (as a sport) – it’s bad for your knees and personally hurts my stupid rib – but this night I got all angry and silly and went and ran in the rain at 11pm along the river. And how refreshed was I afterwards! I popped in on Javi and he was like, Jesus Sam calm down, it’s like you’re high. Who would have thought! Me, running!

Needless to say, that was my one and only run. Pah. Have now taken to doing ‘home exercises.’ I’ve got obsessed with a few workout videos on youtube and have done them almost everyday, at least one hour, which is surely pretty good compared to nothing, no? Well, I feel the effects every morning when I wake up so it must be doing something.

Next paragraph – pancakes. I am ridiculously obsessed with food. Should probably rename this blog. Anyway, Friday 30th Nov I decided to do something fun with the girls before our usual Friday night film (whatever’s on Disney channel) and make pancakes. They had no idea how to do them so I thought I’d be smooth and teach them how to do the flipping part. Pah. Only on the fourth pancake was I successful. Nice dinner of soggy pancake mix I had that night.

Well that weekend, my good friend Emily came to stay from Santander. Well, when I say stay I mean she stayed with us at Javi’s. Sorry, me and her stayed at Javi’s… haha … He says it’s my house too! Going to give me keys after Christmas.. gulp. Nah, it’s just for convenience. Calm down, Aita. No we haven’t picked curtains. We like his just fine. So anyway, I was so excited for her to come and man, did we have a good one. We spent the day in Bilbao catching up and then Lucil joined us for chocolate and we did a few bars in town before joining Javi and co back in the hood, Las Arenas. At about 9pm I felt ready for bed but very soon after I got a second wind and us 3 girls went on to dance, DJ, drink and be generally crazy until 5.30am (minus the boys, they’d gone home). Poor Javi let us in only to be shoved aside as we emptied his fridge of food. What a guy. The next day we had churros and chocolate for breakfast – must have for a hangover – then met Lucil and went for an amazing Italian lunch in the local shopping mall. Mm. Was lovely, and so needed; we were nearly falling asleep in the restaurant, and God knows how many bottles of water we ordered. That evenings English class with the kids upstairs was a tad difficult. It was 7.30pm and I was pretty much a walking corpse. Wasn’t the best conversationalist but hey, they learnt what a hungover teacher looks like.

Tues 4th December I met my first English Couchsurfer. She is here teaching English and already an invaluable source of information on teaching and living here. We got on easily from the start and although not met since, have been speaking enough to assure me we will be in contact for the remainder of our time here – great girl. This week was another puente here in Pais Vasco – where the bank holiday is on a Thursday so pretty much everyone skips work on the Friday to have a four day weekend – you’ve got to love that. So the girls were off school Thursday and Friday but I am SO lucky with my family here that Ana gave me the whole time off so I had 4 days and 4 nights with Javi! We went to the Old Port in Algorta, spent a lot of time with all his friends (who I love and that love is reciprocated) hung out in Puerto Deportivo – our local harbour which has cinemas, bars, restaurants – brilliant place. As usual, lots of food and drink. But we’re actually eating less and trying to be more healthy with what we choose. It’s motivating both doing the same thing. On the Saturday night courtesy of Couchsurfers Lucil and I attended a Cocktail Crawl in Bilbao. WEIRD. We were a group of about 20 – no English, couple of Americans, lots of Germans, Dutch, no French, rest were Spaniards – and most people clearly attended a lot of CS events as they seemed to all know each other – so we trammed it to a location I had no clue of (but soon found out it was just literally on the edge of town, not far at all, in fact later we walked back into town) and started at the first bar. Let me just explain – here in Spain they have lots of competitions regarding food and drink. Pintxos, bread, cheese, vino and cocktails all feature. This happens pretty much every weekend and they are advertised and promoted and have proper routes should you wish to do it properly (oh and it’s always extremely cheap). So we all pile into the first ‘bar’, eager to begin. I say ‘bar’ because (and I’m not even exaggerating) it was a chicken shop, with rotating fowl and everything, which totally confused me and Lucil. We had just come to the conclusion that people were getting a pre-crawl snack when the sweaty greasy old lady behind the counter whipped out 20 cocktail glasses and proceeds to make very delicious cocktails for us all. Nice! The next bar was much more of a bar bar, and we felt sorry for the little man proudly shaking up our cocktails because 30minutes later and no one had managed to drink more than half of the blue fuel he gave us. One guy had some non-alcoholic cocktail added to it which made it a bit more bearable so everyone followed suit. Plus me and Lucil persuaded the barman to cut up his huge barrel of cheese we’d spotted – got it for free so that was mighty nice of him considering we’d shunned his creation.

The next day was spent with Javi and co at a cervezaria – for 9 euros each the six of us shared 4 whole chickens, 3 plates of chips, 4 metre long baguettes, 2 huge plates of mixed salad and ice creams. Oh and of course beer. Brilliant meal. And actually nothing fat about it really.

Yay, this brings us up to last week already! I am forgetting so many things to add but as I think of things the words are coming down through my fingers and boom, it’s there. When I type I don’t tend to edit after, quick read to make sure it makes sense and publish. It’s as I think. Like it or lump it. So I met Marian for lunch which was nice, and we put the Christmas tree up at home which was just adorable – seeing a familys’ traditions and habits is sometimes so endearing – Ana makes this huge nativity scene every year in the kids’ playroom – it’s incredible. I also took myself off for a 3 hour hike along the local cliffs, from very near my house all the way round the corner to Sopelana, a beautiful beach which just makes me feel so happy – I can just stand there and watch whatever’s happening down on the sand. That walk was amazing – on my own, extremely windy, cold but not freezing, getting muddy, falling over – fantastic, I felt so free and refreshed. I’ve been missing people a lot recently from the UK and have been feeling a little frustrated, I’m not totally sure what about but that’s the best adjective for the way I’ve been feeling. Unbalanced? No, that’s not quite right. Frustrated – that’ll do. And missing being with people who’ve known me for more than 4 months. Although damn, Javi knows me like we’ve been together for 3 years not 3 months. Saturday just gone I arrived at his house in the morning as usual to be told to WAIT THERE. He then calls me into the living room and there’s a present wrapped up on the table for me – it’s only the biggest bottle of my FAVORITE perfume ever! Plus a lottery ticket! (They are CRAZY for this Christmas lottery thing they have over here, it’s very entertaining). I was a little overwhelmed to be honest. He’s just so thoughtful and considerate and kind and loving and loves to treat me and literally just wants to make me smile all the time because he loves my dimples.. ok stopping. Errrr… oh yes, Saturday day we spent shopping for presents and Saturday night I joined Ana and Imanol at a huge concert hall in Bilbao for the girls’ school Christmas show – it was so good, thousands of children but just bout managed to spot the girls. Yep, felt like a parent. So cute.

We have reached the present! Yesterday was Imanol’s birthday (43, what a kid) and we went out for dinner to one of my favorite places, Crepe & Crepe… drool… sooooooo good. The girls were angry we weren’t at MacDonalds but when their crepes with white chocolate, banana, cream and ice cream came out they decided it was the best place ever! I TOLD them so. It was nice to all be out together, us 5 and Ana’s mum. I’ve told Ana I want to go out for an evening with the two of them minus the kids and she’s very up for it, just drop the girls at grandmas and off we go, am looking forward to it. Note to self – must suggest a date. Today I had a great lunch with Javi (we have a giant Chinese locally, all you can eat for 10euros but it’s actually nice. I always have a huge plate of salad first then get the guy to wok a load of veg and chicken – so good) then tonight I’ve had a lovely 4 hour battle with the girls. About what, you ask? About everything. Which park we go to. Which ball we take. She’s touching my things, they’re mine. Talk to me, don’t talk to her. Ok, I’m flattered they want my attention so much but I actually sat them down tonight and explained the concept of there being ONE of me and two of them pulling me in different directions, physically! It is tough. And tomorrow I am taking them to PIN, which is a huge, famous adventure park for kids at Christmas. Taking a picnic etc, if I was going with just one other adult I’d be looking forward to it a little more to be honest, and I want to get tons of pictures (plus I have to write a presentation for Spanish class about it since I opened my big mouth and said I was going) but sadly I know it is going to be extremely difficult. They just don’t share, these girls. Nothing. If one touches the other one’s bed, all hell breaks loose. If one uses the other’s ‘bit of the table’ – it’s war. Instant tears, high-pitched wailing and then the hitting starts. Hmm.

Friday I am 99% going to a huge fiesta in Casco Viejo in Bilbao called Santo Tomas. Local farmers etc bring their produce down into the town and sell it from over 300 stalls and then the afternoon and night descends into everyone eating and drinking cider on the street – a lot of locals have mentioned it to me and seeing as I’m now not here for Christmas or New Year I want to see SOMETHING traditional – tomorrow afternoon I will have confirmation if I can go or if I have to be at home with the girls… although (if I understood the Spanish correctly) I think Ana said they can always go to their grandmas. She knows how much I want to go. I’ll say it again, I’m so lucky with my family! This Saturday me and Javi are probably going to Sansan just for the day – yay to see Nana and Caroline and co! – and then Sunday I fly home to see everyone – am so excited! And the dinner on Thurs in London is growing – I’ve reserved 17 seats so let’s hope people show up haha…

My fingers are beginning to cramp now and I can’t quite turn my head all the way to either side so I’m stopping here. Think I’ve pretty much covered everything anyway. Well, the events of the past month anyway. The highlights, you could call it. Not really delved into thoughts and feelings but it’s now 23.40 and I am knackered and got a big day of chasing two girls around a park tomorrow… oich. Please wish me luck! Actually, wish me more that I have Friday off …

Can’t wait to see everyone soon!!!!!

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