Has it really been nearly 3 weeks since the first post? Why yes, it has. September for anyone is always a pretty crazy month, especially for me. September always means the start of a new academic year and therefore also means that you have an unbelievable mountain of stuff to get done. But in my case, having spent my first couple of weeks here in Ciudad Real, I can honestly say that I’m gradually climbing up this giant mountain and almost well on my way to getting on the long path for the Year Abroad. To sum everything up briefly (haha, ‘briefly’, gotta be joking, right?), the first few weeks have been absolutely crazy.. getting a flat, meeting people from all over the world, questioning myself, all the usual stuff I suppose, managing to take absolutely everything in and actually realising that I’m here in the middle of Spain and will be for the next 8 months or so was always something that I thought I could never comprehend. Alas, this is what I’ve been up to!!
So, as I’m studying here, first thing I better do is go and register at the uni, right? Well, if only that was simple. Imagine a long-haired touristy-looking lad with a giant bag on his back and penguin flip-flops (couple of quid in TK Maxx, so..), walking into the International Office where I appeared unannounced and hoped that they could help me out with getting registered (I looked everything up their site and it all seemed logical and straightforward). Even sat here now, 2 weeks later from doing so I still feel like I didn’t really achieve much but nonetheless, they seemed pretty keen to help me out and given the fact that they spoke English, this was a great help given that my Spanish at the moment is a bit shaky. Anyway, with all that done, I’m all set and ready to get on studying, I think..
The food though is not shaky. From enjoying tapas and ice creams in the Plaza Mayor to mastering the Spanish culinary craft myself already, I absolutely love the food here. Thus far, I’ve managed to distinguish that Spanish people love their garlic in food. It seems to be the most golden and central ingredient for any Spanish dish. So far, I’ve been trying to master the famous ‘Sopa de Ajo’ which is literally just ‘Garlic Soup’. A very popular dish from Castilla-La Mancha (and from Castile y Leon) which enfuses the garlicky kick with almost a very fragrant, spicy concoction with all the paprika, serrano ham, the eggs and the white wine. A very indulgent dish that needs absolute precision and good timing, beautiful. Next, the ‘Bacalao A Pil Pil’ which is ‘Cod with Garlic and Chili Sauce’, the dish sounds amazing in itself, but again requires precision and a lot of attention to detail. First time cooking this wasn’t a success by any means, but once you notice the continuity of ingredients in Spanish dishes, confidence in the kitchen will sky-rocket! If you haven’t notice yet, I love cooking and I love trying new things and experimenting with different cuisines, I will try to get some decent pictures of things I’ve made in the next few weeks and put them up here and talk about them. Spanish cuisine has always been something I’ve massively overlooked, given that the UK is mainly focused on British, French, Italian and Indian styles of food, that said however, Spanish food will, hopefully, make an impact in the UK, and deservedly so. Lastly, and certainly not least, the classic Spanish omelette or the ‘Tortilla’ – which is so simple yet my favourite Spanish dish with very simple and indulgent ingredients. All you need is eggs, onions, chorizo and.. crisps?! Yes, that’s right, crisps. Crisps are such a better and easier alternative than normal potatoes. I mean, why go through the trouble of washing them, peeling them, slicing them, blanching them and then frying them when it’s already been done with crisps! Also, when you actually taste the omelette, you don’t even feel the crunch of the crisps, they’ve become so soft and flimsy that they just feel like normal potatoes. Fantastic! I might actually write my own take on the Spanish omelette on here but if you want a great Spanish recipe book then I thoroughly recommend Omar Allibhoy’s ‘Tapas Revolution’, which shows 120 classic Spanish recipes ranging from Aperitivos like home-made lemonade and sangria, to meat dishes, fish dishes, desserts, all across the board – really good stuff.
Aside from the food aspect, one of the best things about the Year Abroad for me is the wonderful international feeling you get when you meet people from across the world. Currently, I live with awesome dudes from Spain and Germany, went to a football match with mates from Ireland and Norway, I spoke to someone from Turkey about Turkish football and his current Masters thesis and across the first few weeks, I’ve met people from Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Norway, Ireland, Mexico, Chile, Turkey, Lithuania.. the list just goes on and on. The fact that someone like me from England is immersed in this amazing international framework is probably the best thing about this whole experience for me; talking to people about their experiences, their hometowns and their upbringings, it’s just something that I’ve always loved the thought of and it really rekindled my passion for interacting with people who have so many cultural differences to me, it just feels amazing. The fact that the Spanish language is the thing that brings us together from so many countries provides so much motivation and makes you want to lose yourself in so many different cultures and walks of life.
So far, so good then! Hardly any tears, been giving a few English lessons here and there, and just about finding my feet in this fantastic place. Adios!