One year on, or, hell no I’m not coming back to England

Good news for all the astrology nerds (me) out there – Mercury is out of retrograde/Gatorade/whatever the hell has been happening for the past two/three weeks. Sometimes suggestion is more powerful than the thing itself and I swear if my dumb Mystic Meg ass hadn’t read an article about this, I wouldn’t have had such a dramatic few weeks.

This actual real scientific thing causes a bit of a wonky planet shift and means that all communication goes to shit. It’s especially bad if you are an Aries. The past couple of weeks I’ve had arguments with literally everything from friends to lampposts. I’ve broken countless cups. I’ve openly cried on public transport because of sad songs. I’ve caused accidental beef with a couple of really cool people for no other reason, other than I’ve been an argumentative bastard. It’s been eventful, to say the least.

Apparently Mercury in Gatorade is a good time to reflect on things and close off projects. It’s a time of renewal, and also a time of crying at cute cat videos. For me, it’s definitely been a time of reflection because it’s one year since I left the UK.

On this blog I’ve already rambled about my semi-snap decision to leave the UK, my struggle with adapting to a new culture and learning a new language, various mental breakdowns and relationship dramas, so this is really just a little post, not to re-hash old ground, but to say I DID IT, BITCHES. Also a post for anyone considering giving up the rat race and creeping off somewhere else – DO IT.

In one year of being semi-nomadic and eventually settling in an awesome city, I’ve had a lot of ridiculous experiences, but I can honestly say it’s been one of the best things I’ve ever done. Yes it was difficult. Yes there were times where I literally couldn’t function. Yes, I ate too many tapas and spent the better part of October wondering where my four extra chins came from. But I made it. And you can too.

To reflect this and to welcome normal alignment of planets again (hopefully), I’m taking a very slight change of direction with this blog. I’m still going to talk about travelling, but I’m going to focus more on a more settled view of expat life, namely in adopted home country. I’m still going to share posts detailing my other travels. I’m still going to be embarrassingly honest and overshare about things like mental health, relationships, my lack of skill as an educator, etc. I’m still going to call out the occasional fuckboy, let’s be real.

I’m also going to talk a bit more about my other passion (besides food) – music, and how I’m currently attempting to establish myself on the DJ scene here in Spain. So expect the next few posts to be a bit more eclectic than normal, but whatever, I don’t care, I’m not here to impress you.

So, despite this weird astrological period causing lots of tears, awkward arguments and general fuckery, it’s made one thing very clear: the mad decision I made just over a year ago was absolutely the right one. Hell no I’m not coming back to England. I’m gonna stick it out here for a bit. I’ll keep you all posted.

Parties in Spain make parties in the UK look like a bloody Downton Abbey tea party

When I was growing up in the hood of East England *cough cough COUGH* it wasn’t easy to get on it on a regular basis. Mostly because everyone knew my parents so I couldn’t sneak into clubs without being recognised (thanks again, local celebrities). Before the people in my school with more apathetic parents started throwing Skins-esque house parties, wild nights out usually involved a bottle of White Lightning and a park bench.

It wasn’t until university that I was able to go completely nuts (which explains a lot for anyone who went to uni with me, shout outs) and even though I spent a large portion of my life in central and east London, various issues meant that nightlife in general there has been on the decline in recent years. Carnival, New Year’s and bank holidays aside, I feel we’re becoming a more chilled nation when it comes to celebrating life in general.

NOT HERE MATE. Last weekend, I experienced my first Spanish carnaval. Taking place all over Spain pre-Lent, it’s a slightly mental and absolutely brilliant mixture of parades, fancy dress, excessive drinking and general happiness, traditionally a giant all-out party before everyone got involved with Lent and gave up chocolate or swearing or whatever.

I was in Ciudad Rodrigo, a small city about one hour from Salamanca, where I currently live. Everything kicked off fairly early in the morning, starting off with the running of the bulls through the main square, continuing with a fairly monumental fancy dress parade through the city and culminating with me passing out upside down on my bed somewhere around 8am. It was NUTS. My friend went to the celebrations in Cadiz and honestly I’m not sure if she’s still alive.

Here’s a few pics (taken badly because I was hanging out with my good friend Don Simon at the time). Overly-descriptive captions above each photo:

Before the madness. Ciudad Rodrigo is usually pretty chill, located in the Castilla y Leon region about 80km from Salamanca. Check the weather tooCity

Lone shot of a cheeky astronaut (one of our party) on an expedition. We went for an aliens/space theme because there was no particular theme and when else do we get to wear blue glitter on a daily basis

More fancy dress

Running of the bulls in the main square. As you can see, I could see virtually nothing but wanted to show just how important this tradition still is despite the general beef (no pun intended) surrounding the treatment of the animals. I’m not entirely comfortable with it but it was something I wanted to experience and I’m glad it did (although to be fair one of the bulls was only jogging)

Bulls

Couple of shots of the fancy dress parade. This was ENORMOUS and incorporated every possible theme you can imagine – superheroes, Vikings, traditional Spanish dress, there was even a family dressed as churros, which was honestly the best thing I’ve seen in 2018.

A worrying amount of people seemed to have forgotten that cultural appropriation is a thing – you wouldn’t believe how many people I saw in blackface which was a little confusing, not to mention upsetting. It seems like here it’s less of an issue to imitate another culture (I saw people dressed as Mexicans too) and I wasn’t sure how to take that, being incredibly white and all, but still…

(Special shout out to the dictator costumes though, they were incredible)

Parade 5Parade 4Parade 3Parade 2

Only vaguely appropriate photo of the author in alien costume, hanging with John Cena (because she’s in camo…you can’t see her…GEDDIT) from a party in a tent which lasted for five hours and know I know all the words to every reggaeton track ever

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Aliens again (photo credit my fellow alien)

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This isn’t the only time I’ve been surprised/impressed by the level of dedication to partying in Spain. Nights out here start at midnight and end when it’s time for (late) breakfast. Religious holidays and celebrations are taken seriously – all the shops shut, everyone gets involved and if you think you’re going home before the sun comes up you are sadly mistaken. All of this combined demonstrates a geniune lust for life that we could learn a lot from in the UK.

Also, fancy dress is good. Do it more.