Category Archives: Festivals in Andalucía

Thanksgiving in Spain

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Thanksgiving in Spain

This is a post that I wrote a year ago when we were in Alhama de Granada, España.  I didn’t finish it until well after Thanksgiving so I thought I’d just wait a year…

Pumpkin pie made with real pumpkin!

Pumpkin pie made with natural pumpkin. No cans of pumpkin in Spain!

In our little village, Alhama de Granada, we are the only Americans in town. There is one Canadian and several other European expats but we are the lone Americans.  But… outside of town live Michelle, Eric and Barbara who are Americans with whom we instantly felt at home.

What a lot of great food!

Thanks for the amazing food!

Although they hardly knew us, Michelle and Eric invited us to spend Thanksgiving with them.  They promised turkey, stuffing and football. How could we refuse?

Futbol Americano!

Futbol Americano!

Of course Thanksgiving is not celebrated in Spain but it is the one holiday that seems to inspire some homesickness for me.  It is not about the food, most of my Thanksgiving memories involve my grandmother making a special dish just for my cousin and me.  We are both vegetarians and being from Illinois, that might just mean that we are mutants. Maybe it is a recessive trait but for a  family of farmers from Illinois, vegetarians are about as rare as they are in Spain.  Anyway, Grandma Ann always made an mushy eggplant and velvetta dish for my cousin Lindsey and me. At the time it wasn’t my favorite but here in Spain I found myself longing for it in the days leading up to Thanksgiving.  No, Thanksgiving is not about the food and certainly for me it is not about the football. It is about it being an American holiday. It is about being in a place where you feel completely comfortable and belonging. I am enjoying this year abroad and we have glimpses of belonging amoungst our new friends.  However, there is nothing is more homey than Thanksgiving on the farm with family.

Michelle and Eric live in a very cool cottage near the village of Santa Cruz de Comercio. Michelle is a writer and Eric is a musician.  They are also runners so we were instant friends with that alone in common. Eric also stars in one of my previous posts: Team Kezmoh Runs to Nerja.   Michelle, Eric and Barbara along with our friend Paul Bateson put on 2 amazing trail races near Alhama de Granada: Ultima Frontera  which I ran and wrote a post about in October:  Ultima Frontera Race report. The other race is in July. It is called Al Andalus Ultimate Trail .  It is a 5 day 230 km stage race based in and around Alhama de Granada.  Sadly we will be back in California by then so we will miss the fun.  Anyone interested in running with me in 2015?

We arrived armed with a big bowl of sweet potatoes and empty tummies.

Sweet potatoes, my Thanksgiving specialty.

Sweet potatoes, my Thanksgiving specialty.

Our new friends welcomed us with hugs and kisses.  They introduced us to Alina and Lawerence Strong who were strangers to us then but have become like family to us in the past months since we met them on Thanksgiving.

Eric, Alina and Lawerence

Eric, Alina and Lawerence

Thanksgiving 2013 fell on the first day of Hanukkah so our first course was a delicious matzo ball soup. Michelle read a blessing and lit a candle.

Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Ball Soup

We sipped Spanish wine, and ate turkey that had to be ordered specially because it is not normally sold in local stores.

The kid's table. An international Thanksgiving tradition.

The kid’s table. An international Thanksgiving tradition.

We enjoyed the food and the conversation.

Savannah, Eric, Alina, Lawrence and Sky

Savannah, Eric, Alina, Lawrence and Sky

Sky Michelle, Barbara and Savannah.  I love it that the girls posed with each side of the table!

Sky, Michelle, Barbara and Savannah.
I love it that the girls posed with each side of the table!

After dinner Sky and Savannah pulled out their iPads and the boys enjoyed some American football.

Michelle, the Thanksgiving goddess with Savannah and Sky

Michelle, the Thanksgiving goddess with Savannah and Sky

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Getting to see Football was exciting for Mike because it is just not on TV here. Eric was able to download it from the internet.

We spent the day with our new friends and felt like we were beginning to have a family here in Spain.  A year later I looked back at these pictures and felt Thankful for friends and family both here in California and across the pond.

Mike and Eric

Mike and Eric

Good fun!

Good fun!

Candelaria in Alhama de Granada, 2014

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Sky on a "merceor.."

Sky on a “merceor”

La Fiesta de la Candelaria is a holiday celebrated around the world on February 2.  It also known as: One of the 12 Great Feasts, Candlemas, the Purification of the Virgin, the Festival of Lights or the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple.  Here in Alhama the “Jameños” have their own traditions which I am pretty sure are unique.  From my observations, Candelaria in Alhama is less of a religious holiday and more of a good excuse to throw a party in the streets that involves eating food with your neighbors, building big bonfires and constructing  “merceores” (actually the proper word in Spanish is  mecedor, but here in Alhama they are “merceores” or huge swings).   It was a new festival for Team Kezmoh and I like to understand the origins of these sorts of things so I did a little research on the significance of Candelaria.  This is it in a nutshell:  Candelaria occurs on February 2 which is 40 days after the birth of Jesus.  Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus to the temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth to complete Mary’s ritual purification after childbirth and to present the child to the temple.  This was associated with the lighting of candles by the faithful.  Different cultures have come up with various celebrations around the world.  I have to say that the celebration in Alhama is very lovely and enjoyable.

February 2 this year fell on a Sunday but the festivities at school began on Friday.  We were delighted that we were asked to join a group of parents who would be making tortitas (fried dough) and chocolate (hot chocolate) for the children.  We set up tables behind the school and got to work as soon as the kids started class.  We had 30 kilograms of bread dough from the panaderia. That is a lot of dough!  We rolled out the dough into thin sheets and then cut it into little squares.

Mike and Juan Jo cutting dough

Mike and Juan Jo rolling and cutting dough

Making squares

Making squares. Leslie with Fina and Esther

The other mothers and fathers set up 2 gas burners. One to make hot chocolate and another to fry the dough.

Maria, Juani and Maria José making hot chocolate

Maria, Juani and Maria José making hot chocolate

We must have made 1000 tortitas which were delicious little pockets of fried dough that can be dipped in sugar or miel de caña (a local favorite that tastes like molasses).  Savannah told me that the aroma of the sizzling dough and the hot chocolate traveled to her classroom.  The children paraded through our mini donut factory class by class starting with the 3 year olds. We demonstrated how we made the tortitas and the kids had fun playing with the left-over dough.  As each group came through, the parents sang traditional songs that all the Jameños know by heart. One of the teachers took the time to write out some of the most popular songs so we were able to join in.

“Si quieres que te quiera

cómprame un roscón

y cuando me lo coma

me compras otro”

Angela, Natalia, Paula (in the background), Eva Crespo

Angela, Natalia, Paula, Silvia and Eva C.

Sky's teacher, Paco with the tiny kids

Sky’s teacher, Paco with the tiny kids

Savvy's class

Savvy’s class: Back row left to right: Daniel, José, Isaac, Youseff, Mohammed, Juan Alberto, Carlos, Angel, Juan David, David, Samuel, Elena, and maestra Conchi. Front row: Eva Perez, Angela, Esther, Savannah/ME, Silvia, Eva Crespo, Natalia, Paula, Inma. 🙂

Sky's Class:  Back row: Paco Front row:

Sky’s Class:
Back row: Paco-Sky’s teacher, Silverio, Richard, Lidia, Carmen, Ana, Sky
Front row: Óscar, Eva

1st Grade!

1st Grade! Dipping the tortitas in sugar and miel de caña

The kids enjoying tortitas dipped in yummy miel de la caña

The kids enjoying fresh, hot tortitas

On Sunday the real Candelaria festival began.  In the morning we stood on our balcony and watched our neighbors on Calle Enciso set up one of the biggest merceores in town.  Sky excitedly ran up the hill because this swing was at her friend Ana’s grandmother’s house and her friends would all be there. Calle Enciso is a steep, narrow street.  The swing was set up between balconies with 2 strong ropes with a cloth seat rigged around the 2 thick cords.  I watched the men test it and was glad to see that it held their weight.

Ángela, Sky's buddy

Ángela, Sky’s buddy

Brave little Adrian

Brave little Adrián

Lovely Paula

At lunchtime, next to the merceor, Ana’s grandmother and her neighbors gave away free vino del terreno (homemade wine, moonshine Mike says) and sold steaming bowls of garbanzos with potatoes and chicken. For dessert one could buy pastries and muffins made by the grandmothers of the neighborhood.  All of the proceeds went to charity.

The Dads, Mike and Francisco with Savannah, Paula and Adrian

The Dads, Mike and Francisco with Savannah, Paula and Adrián

Sky, Savannah and their friends took turns on the swings.  Their laughter and smiles made me warm on the cool day.   I sent a video to my brother, Peter in the US. He commented that back home the children would need a parental consent form, a helmet and a safety belt to climb on board the homemade swings.  So true, I’m glad that there are still places in the world that worry less and live more.

Savvy swinging. Sky pulling the rope. Our neighbors in Alhama de Granada singing.

Mike and Francisco had a midday bike ride and on their way back into town stopped at Maria José’s house for some vino del terreno.

Mike coming home from his ride enjoying some moonshine!  On the left is Mari Carmen, Sky and Savvy's lovely Spanish  tutor.

Mike coming home from his bike ride enjoying some moonshine!
On the far left is Mari Carmen, Sky and Savvy’s lovely Spanish tutor.

 After nightfall Ana’s grandmother and her friends served hot chocolate and buñuelos.  We ordered buñuelos for 4 people which was more than enough for everyone in our group.  The buñuelos came tied on strings called espartos which are made from thin reeds.  We kept warm by the lumbre, dipped our steaming buñuelos (donuts actually) in hot chocolate and visited with friends and neighbors.

Buñuelos

Buñuelos

Making Buñuelos

Making Buñuelos

Late into the night the lumbres glowed on every street corner. It was a village-wide block party.   We spent most of our time near our local merceor with Team Aguilar, our good friends.

Team Aguilar Paula, Juani, Adrian, Francisco and Amparo

Team Aguilar
Paula, Juani, Adrián, Francisco and Amparo

Savvy Mike and Leslie by a lumbre

Savvy, Mike and Leslie by a lumbre

After La Fiesta de la Candelaria we felt a little bit more Jameño and we went to bed feeling happy to be in Alhama.

Halloween in Spain by Mom and the Savster

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Savannah, Silvia and Sky ready to trick or treat!
Truco o trato!!!

Halloween is largely a North American holiday.  People around the world including the Spanish are slowly adopting our traditions as they are inundated with American movies and television.  At home in California we spend 4 to 6 weeks planning for Halloween. Halloween is a big holiday at our house.  We decorate the house, we put up orange and purple lights in the bushes outside and we even have permanent bats on the walls in our entryway!  Catalogs of costumes begin arriving in August and provide hours of entertainment for the girls, planning and dreaming up costumes. We spend at least one Saturday at a costume store picking out new decorations and trying on costumes.  I’d like to say that I spend October creating amazing homemade costumes for the girls but it isn’t true.  On Halloween evening we usually have some friends over for a quick dinner then get to the business of trick or treating.  Last year Sky and Savannah ran ahead from door to door collecting mountains of candy.  We strolled along behind sipping a glass of wine and visiting with our lovely neighbors.  Here in Spain Halloween is not the anticipated event that it is in the US.  A couple of days before Halloween Sky and Savannah mentioned that they would like to dress up and they were pretty sure that their friends would dress up too.  Grammy and Grampy were visiting that week so we all took a trip to the “China Store” as it is called in Alhama. The “Hiperfor” is where we go when we need just about any random thing. Sure enough, there were wigs, costumes and decorations of all sorts amongst the dishes, towels, underwear, cleaning supplies, nail polish and hair dye.

Everyone gets a turn in the wig!

Everyone gets a turn in the wig!

We bought this crazy blue wig.

We bought this crazy blue wig.

Savvy with a wig to match her jacket!

Savvy with a wig to match her jacket!

Grampy Dave, everyone gets a turn in the wig!

Grampy Dave, everyone gets a turn in the wig!

Sky and Grammy

Sky and Grammy

Sky had a vision for her outfit so she was on a mission. She found face makeup, a bat headband and a big black towel.  Savvy picked out a cool orange wig and a funny headband.  At home Sky worked magic with her scissors then stitched the pieces  of the towel together to make the best homemade bat wings I had ever seen.  We got up early on Halloween morning to prepare for the day.  Savvy wore her cool pumpkin shirt that we brought from home, a purple star skirt and crazy socks. She looked very festive.  Sky came out of the bathroom as a bat, ready to go and very pleased with her creation.

Sky flying into school with her spooky classmates.

Sky flying into school with her spooky classmates.

I was a bit worried that the other children would not be dressed in costume but Sky assured me that they would be and she didn’t care if they weren’t. Sky is awesome, always her own person!

Ana came by to pick up the girls on the way to school. Savannah, Ana and Sky

Ana came by the house to pick up the girls on her way to school. Savannah, Ana and Sky

Sky, the most beautiful bat

Sky, the most beautiful bat, on her way to school

Sky with Ana and Savvy following behind

Sky with Ana and Savvy following behind

We arrived in the playground and found that a few kids were dressed in costume, most were in Sky’s class which was a relief.  Sky’s friend Ana had her costume in her backpack so she hurried inside to change. Eva and Ricardo also showed some holiday spirit.

Eva and Ricardo dressed in their costumes for school. Eva dressed as a spider witch and Ricardo dressed as the joker. :)

Eva and Ricardo dressed in their costumes for school. Eva dressed as a spider witch and Ricardo dressed as the joker. 🙂

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Javier, the school director was definitely embracing the spirit of the day!

Have you ever seen a school principal dressed like this?

Have you ever seen a school principal dressed like this?

The teachers invited Sky and her friends to come down to the classrooms of the smaller children to share their costumes and spread some Halloween cheer!

Ana’s dad, David, who is originally from France but grew up in Alhama volunteered to take all of the children trick or treating.  It seemed that most of the parents were not completely familiar with the tradition but agreed to let their children roam the streets in search of candy. My mom, Mike and I tagged along.

The mob of trick or treaters David, the dad is on the right in the back.

The mob of trick or treaters
David, Ana’s dad is on the right in the back.

Truco o trato! Castañas, Jamon!

Truco o trato! Castañas, Jamon!

The children were all dressed in scary costumes, even David had a strange costume on.  It was a cold night which reminded me of Halloween in Illinois. The kids went from door to door ringing bells up and down the steep calles of Alhama.  We had our best luck at the houses of friends and relatives.

Josefa and Juan gave us chestnuts and hugs.

Josefa and Juan gave us chestnuts and hugs.

Savvy’s (9 years old) account of Halloween:  

In school on Halloween day there wasn’t much change because it was pretty much like a regular school day. The only difference was that there were a few people in costumes and my teacher gave my class small bags of gummies.

At school like normal on Halloween Day.

At school like normal on Halloween Day.

At school my teacher, Conchi, asked if I had a costume like Sky (because Sky had worn her bat wings and her makeup) and since everybody liked Sky’s costume I put on my orange wig and let Silvia (my BFF) wear my spider head band. However, at recess I took of my wig because I like jumping rope. Other than that, school was all pretty much the same. After school Sky and I worked on homework and we put on our costumes including putting on makeup. After we did all of our homework we waited until a group of my friends came by the door to get me. Silvia and Esther led me along with the group down to a garage where there was supposed to be a party, however the party was mostly people eating bocadillos de jamon and lots of kids trading and eating candy that they had collected. After about thirty minutes my mom came to the garage. She asked me if I wanted to stay at the party because it cost money if you wanted to stay.  Silvia stayed because she had brought money to stay.  We gave them the money for me, but we didn’t want to stay because I hadn’t gone trick or treating yet and the only candy I had in my bag was candy that my sweet friends had given to me. Plus, going trick or treating is almost the whole point of Halloween, right? My mom and I went home and got extra candy from my dad when we rang the door bell. Sky’s friend Ana came over and took us to her grandma’s house so she could get ready. Once Ana was ready, Ana, Sky, Teo (Ana’s brother), and I went back to our house to collect the family. Daddy and Grampy stayed home so if there were any trick or treaters they could pass out candy.   Later we found out that nobody else came other than us and the group of my friends. Grammy, Mommy, Ana, Sky, Teo, and I went to Carmen’s house for Ana’s makeup. At Carmen’s house there were a lot of kids because Carmen has a little sister in fifth grade and her sister has a ton of friends. Once we started trick or treating it got a bit crazy.

Spooky me in the crowd of hooligans! Candy, Chestnuts, Ham galore, TRICK OR TREATING for door to door.

Spooky me in the crowd of hooligans! Candy, Chestnuts, Ham galore, TRICK OR TREATING from door to door.

The children would ask for food and candy. Once, one of the boys got hungry and he even asked for un bocadillo de jamon  (a ham sandwich!). When a person didn’t have candies, the kids would ask for chestnuts or ham! Many times when the people at the doors saw us coming they got scared and ran inside or up to the balcony. If they came out on their balconies, the kids would yell castañas, caramelos, y jamon, which means chestnuts, candies, and ham. Once an old man was on his balcony throwing chestnuts and one of the chestnuts fell and hit my eye. No kidding, it hurt!

Truco o trato.  "trick or treat"  Here is a neighbor throwing chestnuts to the kids.

Truco o trato. “trick or treat” Here is a neighbor throwing chestnuts to the street.

After a while it got darker and cold and we all started to walk sideways. (The reason I put walking sideways is because its one of the funny quotes from one of the book series that we’re reading. The quote is: When the darkness gets darker we go sideways, replied Bob the Titan.) All the kids ran around like crazy people in costumes for almost the whole night.

These are the kids in the dark being more spooky than ever. Boo!

These are the kids in the dark being more spooky than ever. Boo!

Mommy, Grammy and I went home once it got later because we were all getting cold and tired. Sky kept running around and yelling like a hooligan for candy in the cold night until it was time for Sky’s sleepover at Ana’s house. The day before Ana had asked Sky if she wanted to sleep over at her house on Halloween with their other friend Lara. Sky told us later that they had warm milk and cookies before bed and that in the morning they had churros and hot chocolate that Ana’s mom had made. Sky’s sleepover sounded fun, although it was late and I wouldn’t even have been able to eat my milk and cookies because I was so tired! Halloween was different in Spain, but always so fun to be with your friends and run and jump for candy! FIN!             (THE END!)

45th Birthday Party in Spain

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My birthday was the day after the excursion al campo.  It is our tradition to always go on a birthday run or hike, so we went on a beautiful hike with Mom and Dave to Lake Bermejales where I never tire of the beautiful scenery.

Me and My Mom and Dave

Me and My Mom and Dave

Dave and Sandi

Dave and Sandi

After our hike we enjoyed a cafe con leche at the local cafe/bar.
We made it back by 2 to pick the girls up from school.  Sky had gymnastics at 4 and we couldn’t miss a chance to show off her new skills to Grammy.

Sky - in the middle with her foot on her head!

Sky – in the middle with her foot on her head!

For my birthday dinner I wanted to do something special. I had been hoping to take a trip to Morocco but it would have meant that the girls would miss too much school.  The next best thing that I could think of was a Moroccan dinner! I arranged a party catered by Kritzlynn Al Taib. Kritz is an English woman living near Alhama. She speaks fluent Arabic and runs guided tours to Morocco.

Kritzlynn, my birthday chef!

Kritzlynn, my birthday chef!

Her website is very interesting with beautiful photographs.
http://www.hiddenmorocco-andaluciatours.com
Kritzlynn is also an experienced chef. She lived in Saudi Arabia for many years running restaurants, so cooking for a small group is fun for her. She advised me that she needs a minimum of 8 guests if she is to cater a party. Our family only made 6 so I needed more guests. I didn’t really know many people here but that didn’t stop me!  Since my Mom and Dave were here I decided to keep it an English speaking crowd.  Paul is our closest friend here so of course I invited him.  I found Paul and his current running client, James from Vancouver, eating at Al Dente, the local pizza place.   They happened to be having dinner with another friend who I hadn’t met, John (from England), so I invited all of them.  I called Michelle, her mother Barbara, and Eric of the Ultima Frontera Race and invited them as well. They already knew Kritzlynn and said they wouldn’t miss one of her Moroccan dinners so they were in.   We also included our American friend Spencer. I knew he would say yes (he has a rule about that).

THE GUESTS:

Paul (photographed by Savannah)

Paul (photographed by Savannah)

Sky, such a grownup at the party!

Sky, such a grown-up at the party!

Barbara and Sandi

Barbara and Sandi, the 2 moms

Spencer and Savannah reading the wonderful card that Sky and Savvy made for me.

Spencer and Savannah reading the wonderful card that Sky and Savvy made for me.

Mike and John from England

Mike and John from England

Leslie, Eric and Michelle

Leslie, Eric and Michelle

Michelle, Leslie and Mom

Michelle, Leslie and Mom

James, originally from Singapore but now from Vancouver, Canada with Dave

James, originally from Singapore but now from Vancouver, Canada with Dave

Once the party had grown to 13 I needed a new location as our dining room table is only big enough for 6.  Our friend Orla who currently lives in Washington D.C. owns an amazing guest house/vacation rental around the corner from us.  He calls it the Casa Chocolate since it was once a chocolate factory in the 1920’s.  It is a renovated old Alhaman residence complete with a beautiful modern kitchen.  Luckily it was available and he let us borrow it for the evening with the promise to donate some sort of decoration for the house from our travels this year. What a deal! ( Thanks Orla! Come visit us in California! )

Kritzlynn made an amazing dinner.  We started with appetizers that could easily have been a meal alone.

Kriyzlynn explaining the appetizers

Kritzlynn explaining the appetizers

Charmoula (a coriander, tomato and chile salsa)

Roasted red pepper hummus

Cooked Moroccan salad with aubergine, red peppers, olives and carmelized onions

Fresh tomato, orange and garlic salad

Baba Ghanouj

Served with Pita Bread and Crusty rolls.

Kritz in the kitchen

Kritz in the kitchen

THE MAIN COURSE:

Bistiya (my favorite)…”A festive pie”. Wow, a wonderful vegetarian pie filled with roasted squash, sweet potato, cranberries, pistachio nuts, almonds, chickpeas and spinach.  The pie is in a filo pastry which amazingly Kritz makes herself!

Thanks to Savannah for getting a picture of the Bistiya before it was completely gone!

Thanks to Savannah for getting a picture of the Bistiya before it was completely gone!

Chicken kabobs: for the meat-eaters

Chicken Kabobs

Chicken Kabobs

Roasted Veggies, almost gone!

Roasted Veggies, almost gone!

Roasted Moroccan Veggies

Cous cous

Basmati rice with moroccan spices.

Moroccan cous cous

Moroccan cous cous

We ate and ate! ( and drank ) The food was delicious, the conversation was outstanding, and the company was warm and friendly. Of course, Sky and Savannah were the life of the party!

Party party

Party party!

Great conversation

Great conversation in the lovely Chocolate House!

Kritzlynn finished the dinner with a delicious mixed berry dessert served with meringue and 2 candles : 4 5

I had my 20'th birthday in Spain, glad to be back 25 years later!

I had my 20’th birthday in Spain, glad to be back 25 years later!

Team Kezmoh goes on a school picnic with Grammy and Grampy

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Beautiful October Morning

Beautiful October Morning

Last week we had our first brave visitors to Alhama de Granada.  My mom and stepdad, Dave came to visit for my birthday.  Team Kezmoh drove our Seat Leon to Malaga to pick them up.  We returned the little car and exchanged it for a minivan for the week.   A minivan is a rarity in Spain because large vehicles are not meant for Spain. The roads are narrow and parking spaces are very tiny.

At the airport Mike took care of the details of switching cars while Sky, Savvy and I planted ourselves outside of customs.  We were overjoyed when we spotted Grammy Sandi and Grampy Dave!  We gave them huge hugs and led them to the minivan.

So glad to see Grammy and Grampy!

So glad to see Grammy and Grampy!

The girls chattered all the way to Alhama about their new lives here.  While our special visitors settled into the apartment downstairs (Apartamentos Salmerones), Savannah made a list of the important sites she wanted to share in Alhama.  We hardly gave Mom and Dave time to put their suitcases away before they were pulled out the door for a tour.  Savvy had her list so she was our guide.  We visited all of the important parks, the library, the grocery store, the Churrero, the coffee shop and the school.  Looking back I had to smile because Alhama has many tourists who pass through every day.  I always see them disappearing on hikes into the gorge,  touring the old quarter, and posing for photos in front of the old church but I bet none of them knows where the grocery store is!

On Sunday morning we hiked down to the Churrero for churros and chocolate, a must for visitors to Spain.  The churros are made fresh when ordered and “churros for 6” is enough for an army.  The chocolate is a thick molten pudding rather than a drink and it is served with a spoon.

Grammy and Savannah Churros and chocolate

Grammy and Savannah
Churros and chocolate

Churros and Chocolate Sky and Dave

Churros and chocolate
Sky and Dave

Luckily for Mom and Dave we had an all-school, all-day excursion on Monday!   It was an “Excursion al Campo”, a trip to the countryside.

Grammy Sandi and Savannah ready to hike to the campo

Grammy Sandi and Savannah ready to hike to the campo

Sky, ready for the outing!

Sky, ready for the outing!

Checking the schedule for the day

Checking the schedule for the day

The week before Mike and I had been recruited to help brainstorm activities for the day.  It was Halloween week so they wanted us to help with ideas from our Halloween/Harvest festivals at home.  We were delighted to be included and agreed to run a station and bring a typical American snack.  We googled Halloween cookies and although we had never had them before we thought “witches’ fingers” would be a good Halloween snack.  Grammy took charge of making the cookies. Sky and Savannah were in charge of forming the fingers and adding the “fingernails”. We also made Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwiches.  Javier, the school director, enjoyed hearing us say peanut-butter-and-jelly more than the sandwiches themselves.  “Say it again!” he laughed calling a friend over to listen to our funny accents.

Making Witch's Fingers!

Making Witches’ Fingers!

Sky, Savvy and Leslie with our PB&J and cookies

Sky, Savvy and Leslie with our PB&J and cookies

The Fingers

The Fingers

We hiked in a long line of children, parents and teachers down into the gorge across one road and onto a trail into the forest.

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Embalse de los Bermejales

Embalse de los Bermejales

We set up the festival under the shade of tall trees at a picnic ground by the local lake, Embalse de los Bermejales (this is different from the Lake Bermejales that we run around).  Mom, Dave, Mike, Spencer and I manned Estacion #3.  Spencer is a young man from Tennessee who is teaching English at the school this year.  Since he is the other American he was assigned to our group.  We really like Spencer so we were glad for his company. Our station was called “Coma manzanas sin los manos” (eat apples without your hands). We sliced apples and dangled them from a string hanging between two trees.

Savannah and Spencer (pronounced ES-spencer by the Spanish children)

Savannah and Spencer (pronounced ES-spencer by the Spanish children)

Mom, Sandi cutting apples

Mom, Sandi cutting apples

We gave the instructions in Spanish and had the kids repeat them after us in English.  We were supposed to be teaching some English so we quizzed them on the words for fruits and vegetables.  The children were pretty hungry and were motivated to get the apples without using their hands.  It was fun to watch.  In every group there was always one kid, usually a big boy, who would demand that his string be reloaded several times.

Grampy Dave helping with the apples

Grampy Dave helping with the apples

Toma manzanas sin manos

Toma manzanas sin manos

Delicious apples!

Delicious apples!

Sky's friend Ava

Sky’s friend Eva

Sky and Savannah stayed with their classes. They had sack races, a mask-making station and other games.

Beautiful Sky winning the sack race

Beautiful Sky winning the sack race

Savvy with her cool autumn mask

Savvy with her cool autumn mask

Once every class had rotated through all the activity stations, it was time for lunch and most of the parents began arriving.  One mother roasted chestnuts and passed them out wrapped in newspaper.

Passing out roasted chestnuts

Passing out roasted chestnuts

Tables were set up and the food was laid out.  There were Tortilla Espanolas (thick egg and potato omelettes), Empanadas, fried fish, and an entire table devoted to what else,  jamon. We visited with the other parents and tasted all of the foods. I had to explain at least 6 times that I was certain that the jamon was delicious but that I was a vegetarian. Mike just kept some on his plate to prove that he was enjoying it.

So much JAMON!

So much JAMON!

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Mike, Dave and Sandi after lunch

After everyone had eaten, Javier jumped around and announced that it was time for some games.  I volunteered for the sack race.  Spencer joined me.  Spencer has a rule that he must never say no if he is invited to try something as long as it is not unhealthy or illegal. I knew when Javier approached him that he would be lining up for the race!  Spencer won and was awarded a bag of candy which seemed to come with about 40 children. They surrounded him and left him with an empty bag. He was smiling, what a prize!

Full of fried calamari, tortilla Espanola, witches’ fingers, and jamon we all hiked back to the school.  It was a long line of tired children who hiked the mile back to school.  I was impressed that even the tiny kids hiked without complaint.  Javier took up the rear making sure no one got lost.

DSC_9705It was evening and we were all tired.  It felt good to have had a station of our own to run.  We felt welcomed and part of the community which was lovely.  Team Kezmoh and Grammy and Grampy went home and watched Despicable Me and went to bed.

Team Kezmoh

Team Kezmoh

Stay tuned for more adventures of Team Kezmoh and visitors.