Now returned from my journey over the pond to England, I now smell an apple pie cooking in the oven for one of my favorite traditions, Thanksgiving. I am not traveling this year, but staying where I “hang my hat”, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As I tell most people, I didn’t want to wait until retirement to escape the cold winters of the Mid-West, New England or Spain. So four years ago, my then fiancé, now husband, and I packed up a not yet mature household near Boston and moved to sunny South Florida.

Many of you have heard that you can take the girl out of the country, but you can never take the country out of the girl. Well, I consider that to be true. A component of where you come from and each place you live stays with you to make the rich, mixture of personality and tradition that makes us all unique. I must say that my verbage and slight accent can show that I haven’t forgotten my Mid-Western roots (Wis-CON-sin), but I must say that I attribute much of how I view the world to the place where I really grew up, Spain.

At the age of twenty, I moved to Madrid and stayed for two years. I typically equate this time of my life to being an infant or toddler. I was a sponge just as kids are. Everything was different. The sounds and language were strange as well as the holidays, music, food, when you eat it, when shops are open, and even scents. It was a sensory overload and probably the two years of my life that I learned the most. Who would think that I could attribute a valuable lesson to going out to a local bar to have “tapas” (small snacks), meet up with friends for the “marcha” (nightlife), and end the event with a cup of thick, hot chocolate and fried donuts at no earlier than 3 or 4 am?

Yes, those years gave me the appreciation for things other than traditional classes, memorizing information and formulas, and staying cooped up with my college books to be a straight “A” student. I began to understand that a day in the Prado or hopping a bus to Sevilla or Granada to see local festivals to be the true learnings of life. I might add that there is something to be said about a culture that has what seems to be hundreds of three day weekends somehow based on religion. I saw these festivities as three days of eating, dancing, drinking, and sometimes dressing up in costume. I have now come to realize that they were a way to meet hundreds of new people, who were my teachers or what I refer to as encyclopedias of life.

I arrived in Spain intending to stay a year and return to the Mid-West to start medical school. I did not leave after a year, but stayed to get another dose of Spanish lifestyle. Who would have thought that I would trade in my peanut butter snack for olives and ever say that there is a cheese better than cheddar… the way, it is called manchego. During those two years, I traveled throughout not only Spain but almost all of Europe and some parts of Africa…many of which I will write about in future posts to tell my stories of Christmas Eve in a Turkish brothel, New Year’s in Napoli, camel rides in Morocco, traditional Roman baths, and like adventures.

As you know, I did eventually leave Spain only to return occasionally to visit familiar traditions, food, and small tapas bars. The time had come to return to the U.S. and take that country girl mixed with cosmopolitan Spanish flare back to the States.

With that, I leave you to take out my pie and enjoy a Thanksgiving feast with my husband and my dad. By the way, I still like my apple pie with cheddar cheese… can’t use manchego! (It is a Wisconsin tradition.)

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