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La Cabalgata

7 Jan

¡Feliz dia de los tres Reyes! And Happy Three Kings Day to those of you who didn’t understand the first part! Well, technically it was yesterday – January 6 – but I couldn’t possibly have written yesterday because I was far too busy opening my presents, eating king cake and nursing my hangover from the mass amounts of sweets that were eaten at the Cabalgata.

So what, you may ask yourself, is a cabalgata?

The cabalgata could most easily be described as a parade held every 5th of January in honor of the Three Kings (or Three Wise Men as we would probably call it!). The most famous cabalgata takes place in Madrid, but there are parades of all sizes that take place all over the cities and pueblos of Spain. Here in Lucena, people spend months decorating floats that take to the streets, accompanied by bands and of course the Three Kings themselves – Baltazar, Melchor, and Gaspar -each with their own elaborate float. 

Keep in mind that these were the guys that brought gifts to baby Jesus, so they always bring gifts with them to throw out at the parade. Forgoing the traditional gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh, modern day gifts usually include balls, stuffed animals and many many “caramelos” or sweets.

After a long night at the parade, the excited kids go home and eagerly await the arrival of the Kings the next day, being sure to leave out some cookies and snacks for the Kings and a little water for their camels too, of course. For most kids in Spain, January 6th is when they get their Christmas presents, although some now get gifts from santa on Christmas Day.

Another tradition that accompanies Three Kings Day is King Cake or rosca de reyes. This round cake usually comes with gifts hidden inside for the people who are lucky enough to get a slice with a gift. My gift this year? A little figurine of Maggie Simpson. Now that’s what I call lucky!

Today’s Word: Cabalgata (n.): Three Kings Parade; as in: “Hope you don’t get a cavity after eating all the sweets you caught at the cabalgata!”

When Two Worlds Collide

27 Sep

As I sit in one of the only two hostels of Lucena (my new home for the year), it’s hard to imagine that just 24 hours ago I was fighting through the crowds of people in Manhattan’s Penn Station. Talk about culture shock! Try going from the high-rises and propetual motion of New York City – population 8,000,000 – to the quiet streets and tranquil plazas of Lucena, Spain – population 40,000. Not to mention changing languages and time zones.

My tour guide and I in Times Square

But first the beginning: the big apple. After making it to 16 countries in 23 years, I figured now was as good a time as any to jump into the craziness that is New York City. Was I prepared for what I was about to see? Probably not. But thanks to the 25 cent guide book courtesy of Grandpa Bob, I arrived to the city sounding like I knew what I was talking about. But truly it was my awesome tour guide, Michelle, that got me from Subway A to Subway B and taught me the correct pronunciation of “Houston”. After only a short weekend in the city we managed to cram in Times Square, the Eiffel Tower, Central Park, NYU, Chinatown, Brooklyn, Little Italy, Rockefeller Center, The New York Public Library and so much more.

The question of the trip: Could I ever see myself living in NYC? Truth is, I was more concerned with whether I could live in Lucena, Spain!

Lucky for me, a mere taxi ride, 2 flights, 2 trains, 2 buses, 6 time zones and 24 hours later, I was able to get a better handle on that question as I arrived in Lucena. Luckily, I was greeted at the bus stop by another auxiliar, Anna, and headed to the hostel. The quiet of the small streets was almost eerie compared to the chaos of the ones I had come from. But sometimes contrast is good. After a stroll around the town and a Coca-Cola Light in the lively main square, I think the answer is yes… to both.

I would love to live one day in a big city like New York, but for now I’m pretty content on settling into small town España. Apartment searching and school visits to come in the morning!

Today’s Word: el piso (n.): apartment; as in: “If I don’t find a piso quickly, I’m going to be sleeping in the park.”