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Gastronomy Plus in Spain: Notes From SYA

Amanda Bennett ’10 is spending her senior year at the School Year Abroad program in Spain.

During our morning break between Spanish classes, we go to a bar. We have infinite choices: Bar San Remo, El Albohada, el Laurel, or any other of the countless bars in the center of downtown Zaragoza.
Here in the capital of Aragón, most bars open at eight o’clock and offer coffee, pastries, and tapas. Next door are bakeries and bookstores. We can walk to the city library, numerous fountains, and the cafeteria of a local high school, where we go for lunch every day. While the offerings are limited in comparison to Deerfield’s dining hall, our options for free period snacking surpass the Greer.

Classes here in Spain begin at nine, but the school opens at 8:30. We press a button and wait at the green door (which never fails to remind me of Deerfield!) to rise three flights to our tiny colegio. After two classes, we buy coffee or a pastry at the aforementioned bar-cafés or simply wander around the city and take in fresh air. After three more periods we leave for lunch. The school is shut down and locked for siesta until three, until the next class begins at 3:30. After two more periods, we are let out at 5:15.

Since co-curriculars have yet to begin (most start after the Pilar festival, a week-long celebration particular to Zaragoza, which, according to my host-mother, includes eating chocolate churros for breakfast), I don’t have any commitments until 8:30 in the evening, when my host-mother and I eat dinner. However, I generally walk home much earlier to do homework and help cook.

Being vegetarian in Spain is possible thanks to my host mother, who is always open to trying new recipes for me. We’ve tried an asparagus and leek soufflé, various quiches, mushrooms with garlic, and the classic Spanish tortilla. I cooked rice with spicy peanut sauce once, utilizing the peanut butter I brought from home since one cannot find it here.

After dinner, students are expected to spend some time with our hosts before burying ourselves in homework. My host-mother and I head to the living room for the news at nine—a chance for me to practice my Spanish and hear about the state of things in the United States.

Keeping up with Deerfield news isn’t too difficult, as I check DAnet and my email daily…as opposed to hourly, which was my general habit in the U.S. Here, my house doesn’t have Internet access, so I have to walk to the library or the Plaza del Pilar for free wifi. Walking to the Pilar from my home is about the same distance as from John Louis to the Koch Center.

But rather than colonial architecture and the Memorial lobby, my walk today consists of a dance troupe twirling to music blasted from the back of a truck draped with the Spanish flag, an informational fair sponsored by a heart health organization, multiple women in wedding dresses at a photo shoot, a basilica, and a giant puppet accompanied by a few women dressed in traditional Aragón garb.

And luckily for me, the giant caricature scared all the pigeons away. The Plaza is covered with birds and little children feeding them (more like wildly and randomly throwing rice to them). Deerfield’s squirrels are beautiful in comparison. And The Plaza would be so much more beautiful if that tree outside the Memorial Building was here.