Puente Report Card

Hurtling toward a snowy Sol

Ahh, Christmas, a time of traditions. Living abroad means recreating and interpreting the holidays in new ways, and I’ve settled into the tradition of spending the December puente (long weekend) in Madrid. Last year I had a plane ticket to Galicia but strikes rerouted my plans. This year I chose to stay in the city, wanting to catch up on projects and plans.

Here are the various happenings of the puente, and how they stacked up. I’ve scored ’em Spanish style, on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being a lump ‘o coal and 10 being a bag of goodies that can barely make it down the chimney.

1) Prepare for take-off

Forget turrón; imagine the custom official’s faces when they open my suitcase to find these typical goods

Going back to the states for Christmas requires planning. As always, there’s paperwork hoop-jumping (status: hazy). There’s a suitcase to be packed, January’s rent to be paid, and an apartment to be cleaned. Then, there’s the gift-buying.

I’ve been mulling over what to gift for, oh, about a year now. Perhaps it would have been easier at this time last year, when going outside yielded a new discovery each and every day. Now, however, the idea of buying gifts just stresses me out. I walked down shopping streets Preciados and Fuencarral, browsed the Rastro, and even sought out a French market. El Corte Ingles had a 7-foot tall Christmas tree hung with tubs of Cola-Cao, which I gave kudos for creativity. I settled on a very typical Spanish gift, which I will not publish here just in case family happens to read this. Let’s just say El Corte Ingles should really start giving me a kick-back.

Grade: 7

2) Get in the holiday spirit

Pan de jamón

No Wednesday evening puente kick-off could be complete without pan de jamón. This is a Venezuelan bread layered with ham, bacon, olives, and raisins and rolled stromboli-style into the oven. I was only introduced to the spiral a few months ago from my friend Jairo, who used to live in Venezuela. It’s a dish typically eaten at Christmas, hence the puente timing. It came out estupendamente, better than either of us expected it to. Jairo came over to help with the construction, but, even though we listened to Christmas tunes while the bread turned golden in the oven, it will take me some time to associate it with Christmas.

Grade: 9

3) Update

Oh, hey, wigs–I’m back again and this time I want you for myself

Spoiler: I have anime hair. I decided I would cross getting a hair-cut off of my list, as I hadn’t done this since late July. At my cita, I carefully explained that I wanted the same haircut.

The good news: This month I’ll be taking family photos again for the first time in 1.5+ years!

The bad news: The hairdresser either gave me a head-full of bangs or a Spanish mullet. Refer to the picture of me in this post if you are curious to see how it turned out.

Grade: 2


With so many enticing Xmas lights, who wants to stay inside?

One of my major reasons for wanting to base myself in Madrid this weekend was to work on grad school apps. I did pitifully little of that, and realized later that I was waiting for a Christmas miracle. It never arrived.

I did research a few programs and churn out one essay. Otherwise, I did an excellent job of avoiding real work by taking pictures, crafting, and wandering aimlessly. Several new files have been saved to my laptop, but they are mainly of photos and not Word docs with thoughtful words.

Grade: 5

Overall total: 6

Well, at least in Spain a 6 out of 10 is usually seen as a decent achievement. With the actual Christmas break coming soon, I’ll have the chance to improve on each of these points in one way or another. Feliz puente!

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  1. Pt. # 1: I was hoping to get a preview of what you were getting us for Christmas only to be disappointed at your deliberate silence! You’re mean! The suspense is building…..

    Pt. # 2: Your new ‘do is not at bad as your caricature!

    Pt. # 3: Do you really think you are going to get much accomplished on those grad school applications while home??!! You’re as optimistic as your father!!!

  2. Are you going to be this feisty when you arrive home? I hope jet lag doesn’t drain your spunk. Loved it.

    PS: Yes, family was reading…

  3. Cassandra

    Mot –
    1) Yes, I am mean. I am basically Ebenezer Scrooge in female form.
    2) I still hate it. You could say it’s NOT growing on me.
    3) Ahhh, but you forget the layover in NJ! That’s more than enough time to conjugate irregular Italian verb + work on apps.

    Pop –
    If by feisty you also mean sarcastic, then I can only hope so!

  4. I’ve never seen pan de jamón before but damn that looks good! I’ll have to see if I can find it in Seville (since lord knows I don’t have the patience to do something as ambitious as make it myself). Also, I got a mullet in Spain too… I guess it’s a keepsake. Whether or not I wanted it.

  5. Cassandra

    Thanks! The filling was easy but the dough was A BEAST.

    A friend’s Venezuelan roommate was able to special-order pan de jamón from a bakery in Madrid; hopefully you can have the same luck in Sevilla!

  6. Casey, I really enjoyed reading all of these! That sandwich looks very impressive, especially after finding out that you made it! It reminded me of a muffaletta until you mentioned the raisins. Those wigs look crazy!

  7. Cassandra

    Thanks, Kristen! It made for a very photo-worthy dinner.

    The wigs are popping up everywhere!! When I got on the metro yesterday entire families were sporting wild neon hair, Christmas-tree hats, and other crazy combinations.

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