Friday, November 28, 2014

Pam's Wedding: A Beautiful Celebration in Punta Cana, Spanish Wedding Cards, & My First All-Inclusive Resort Experience

Pam - beautiful bride!
On November 12th, 2014, Pam and Cody were married in a beautiful, small, ceremony in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.  I travelled there for the in-all inclusive week, and the ceremony was on Wednesday.  Pam looked absolutely stunning, and while I don't have photos of my own, here are a few that the photographers took.

The ceremony was small and beautiful; there were about 20 guests, so we had a chance to get to know each other well. The bridesmaids wore lilac dresses, and the decor at the wedding reception was impressive. The Jellyfish, the restaurant off the resort where the wedding took place, was a unique venue...the wedding dance was on a tent in the sand! Cody composed a song for Pam - which was played at the first dance; so romantic!  The playlist that followed was definitely the best wedding playlist I have ever listened to.  What a wonderful event!

Note: A few of the pics below were taken from the pile of photos we took together and shared, so photo credits go to everyone who shared a photo in the wedding folder on Dropbox ;)

The Happy Couple

Dance floor

A Backpacker on an All-Inclusive Resort

For Teresa, Des and I, this was our first time at an all-inclusive resort.  The wedding was really beautiful, but I think backpacking is still my travel style. As I said above, the food at the wedding was delectable and the cake (gluten free and vegan) definitely the best I've had, but at the resort...the chickpea salad was definitely my go-to. I won't start to describe the drinks...let's just say that their target market is definitely people who want to get REALLY, REALLY, DRUNK and don't care about the quality of the alcohol (or the way the "cocktails" are made...) There was one, hidden, bar on the resort that made some decent drinks, but we didn't find it until the last day!)   I will always remember our "apple martinis" and my favourite  quote of the trip ...

"Is that a cherry in your apple martini?"--Teresa

We did go on an excursion to experience "life outside of the resort", but I felt that the trip was a bit too packaged for me. Holding a starfish was interesting (see the pics of Teresa below), but I was annoyed when the tour guide told us not to buy items from the vendors at the first stop (presumably because the second "better" shop, (which was much worse!) was giving him a commission. I purposely bought two bracelets from the vendors and spoke Spanish to them, even though he tried to stop me,  even as we were making a transaction - take that, tour guide!  

On the contrary, the beach we visited at the second stop was beautiful!

 I can understand the appeal of having everything taken care of for you, I suppose - but the lack of discovering the native culture of a country you have never been to is something I craved. One of the girls in my Spanish class, Cristina, is from Florida, but her family is originally from the Dominican - she says I should go back to experience the other towns nearby.

More importantly, the wedding was a beautiful event and I am so glad I was able to attend.

Sandy beach on the excursion trip

Teresa with a starfish!

Sea turtles
Teresa and Des at the resort
A millionaire's house on the island of poverty

Local island shopkeeper

The Spanish Wedding Card Fiasco

So, before I left Barcelona, I wanted to buy Pam and Cody a wedding card.  In a big, metropolitan city, that'd be easier, right? Nope! It turns out the Spanish celebrate everything by saying "Felicidades!" (Congratulations). All I could find were Happy Birthday and Congratulations cards, no matter how hard I looked. The shop owners gave me the STRANGEST looks when I asked (in Spanish!) where I could find a wedding one.  One shop lady told me she had never in her life given someone a wedding card!

So, I improvised and found a blank Felicidades card and a few Spanish quotations about love online ;)

CONGRATULATIONS Pam and Cody!! Here's to your life long happiness!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Happy Castayana! (Spanish Halloween): Chestnuts, Panellets, History & All Souls Fun!

One lovely part of being an English as a Second Language teacher, in a country that's not my own, is that I have the great job of explaining North American traditions and holidays, such as Thanksgiving and Halloween. This year, I'm teaching several classes and individual tuition students, so I taught many Halloween lesson plans and learned a lot myself!

My students taught me that, instead of Halloween, the Spanish celebrate Castayana, which is a festival where you eat warm, roasted chestnuts castanyas (available at many street vendors), and panellets, a glorious Spanish calorie-bomb made from pine nuts, powdered, sugared almonds and syrup (available at many bakeries, in October only). Yum!

Did you know?...
  • Halloween originated in Northern Europe, primarily in parts of England and Northern Ireland. When the Europeans immigrated to North America, many of the traditions were kept (and some adapted)
  • October 31st - All Hallow's Eve  was considered to be the night when all the dead souls came to live and the spirits came to haunt the living. People dressed up to look like dead people to trick the spirits into thinking they belonged (and to avoid being taken away by them)
    • Jack-o-lanterns - are a new version of the candles that people would leave in their windows to guide the spirits away from their homes (and back to the land of the dead)
    • Halloween candy - is the new version of food offerings that people used to leave spirits, also to guide them home
  • November 1st - All Saint's Day was considered to be the day to celebrate the dead. Many Spaniards (and people of other European nationalities) visit cemeteries on this day.
  • November 2
    nd - All Soul's Day was created by the Catholic Church much later to celebrate the living souls

Mikael & Ayana came over for Temparillo,  tapas and panellets (and a farewell to Ayana who is returning to Germany). Mikeal is also leaving to go home to Sweden soon :(  We all had a wonderful last night hanging out together, though!
Wine night!

Happy Castayana & Happy Halloween, everyone!