Monday, December 16, 2013

Ugly Sweater Party

For my birthday this year, I decided on a North American theme: an Ugly Sweater party (Suéter Feo).  For anyone unfamiliar with this concept, around Christmastime people in my Canadian hometown pull out the ugliest sweaters they've ever been gifted, or scour the secondhand stores. We make them even uglier by adding Christmas decorations, and then go out and party!


Based on my friends' reactions, it was obvious that Fiesta Suéter Feo had never been done in Villacarrillo before. When I sent them example photos, about a third of them were absolutely enthralled by the concept. The rest were horrified at having to wear them in public. The protests on Whatsapp were hilarious: “We have to make our sweaters UGLY?”  “Maybe we can go to the bar.... in the afternoon?”  “But if I go out like that, I'll lose clients for my business.” 

But my friends are troopers, and love a good party, so they were game to bring my idea to life. I was so proud of them because they worked so hard on decorating their sweaters!  Watching them slave over their outfits for hours made me wonder, “Will they be brave enough to go to the bar wearing them?”  I secretly hoped so!

Getting ready for the party
When they showed up for dinner at my apartment, I was so happy to see their work. Even the ones who were adamant about not doing the theme showed up in ultra-ugly wear! But after dinner, would we go out as a group and show them off?

(Just in case the townspeople didn't know which one was the foreigner...)
My friend turned her entire self into a Christmas tree!

...Not this year; when it came time to go out, invitees started taking off the decorations. My Canadian friend, who was visiting from Madrid, tried to guilt them into keeping them on. But I couldn't force anyone to do it; doing so would have been like asking them to run naked in the streets. An Ugly Sweater party is such a strange concept here that making them go out dressed as such would have been cruel. It's like Hallowe'en; years ago, no one here celebrated it. But now, kids dress up and go out, and next the adults will. Is there any hope that one day people here will have Suéter Feo parties?  Based on the fun we had, yes there's hope.

Monday, December 2, 2013

My Bubble

I forgot my Mom's birthday. What's worse is that while it was her birthday, I was thousands of kilometres away celebrating my neighbours' birthdays. Three weeks later, I finally sent her a card and a video greeting.

In school, students asked about the welfare of my family in the Philippines. My response: “...uh, what typhoon?” You see, I don't watch the news. I can't understand the rapid Spanish anyway. And because no one in my immediate family was affected, I never received a message from my parents.

When I was living in Canada, I was obsessed with keeping up with the latest fashion and beauty trends. Here, I feel dressed up on days when I'm NOT wearing my running shoes. I had forgotten about my appearance until I arrived at the bar one evening, and a Madrid friend asked “Uh, you're going to change before we go out to the pub, right?” Even after he said that, for a few minutes I thought there was nothing wrong with my hand-me-down knitted cardigan, wrinkled shirt, messy hair, and – you guessed it – running shoes. 
I'm pretty sure my Canadian friends want to kill me right now.
In my pueblo, it's easy for me to forget the outside world that is revolving at dizzying speed, while here I amble slowly to work, only use the internet when I'm near Wi-Fi, refuse to mark papers while I enjoy a three-course lunch, and follow the stores' siesta time when they all close at 2 p.m. for a few hours. I stop while I walk to work to marvel at the way the sun's setting light is shadowing the Sierra's crevices. I feel at peace as I walk home alone at night, pausing to admire stars that I could never see in the city. 

Sometimes I feel like I'm not living in reality, like I'm on a perma-vacation. There still exists a pressure inside of me to climb the corporate ladder, keep up with trends, hurry up and get a boyfriend, move fast, fast, fast. At times, this voice yells LOUDLY inside of me. But 99% of the time, it's non-existent. Moving to the pueblo quieted the internal critic.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Cordoba preview

Did a quick day trip to Cordoba on Sunday, to watch my friends take part in a half-marathon and to see a few sights. Impressions of Cordoba: super-cute, lots of rich history, and tonnes of palm trees, making it feel like southern California.
A brief post, because I concentrated more on looking at attractions than taking pictures. My short visit only whet my appetite for a longer stay next Spring!

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Cold Bites

I had grand plans for this weekend: create a video to show off my piso; do all of my planning for my lessons this week; laundry; clean; go running; attend my neighbours' birthday; hit the bar with friends. I only accomplished the last two, and the resaca I had after hitting the bar is only part of the reason I didn't get much done.

The other factor: the cold. Words can't describe how the cold seeps into your bones in this part of Spain. I boasted to my neighbours that I'd be able to handle the coming winter, "because I'm Canadian". Then the season turned, and now I'm walking around my piso like the Michelin Man, wearing two sweaters, two flannel pants, socks, and thick slippers.

My bed - with no less than FOUR blankets

There's something about the cold that saps all your energy. I don't know how many times I've huddled on the couch covered by my blanket, my cat laying on me, and suddenly I remember a task I should be accomplishing. But I. don't. want. to. move. I'm warm! Why throw off my only protection from the cold, piercing fingers of Mr. Villacarrillian Frost?

I almost wept with joy when I showed up at a birthday party, and everyone was sitting around a brasero. The stove was situated under the table and a heavy blanket was draped over it, with everyone's legs under cover. A warm paradise!
Ain't no party like a brasero party

Monday, November 4, 2013

How to Prepare for NALCA

There's tonnes of advice out there, from previous applicants, for the North American Language & Culture Auxiliaries program. The following are the ones that rang truest for me:

Organize your paperwork early
Bearing in mind expiration dates for paperwork, get a jump on things: have your school transcripts ready, ask someone if they'll write your reference letter, sort out your money, plan when to obtain your criminal record, etc.

The 5 day limit to accept your school placement is B.S.
If I'd taken more time to research my placement, things would be very different right now. I probably would have been more prepared for my circumstances (i.e. rural village vs. happening town). I rushed to mail my acceptance to the coordinator, paying a lot of $$ to reach the 5-day deadline. In reality, you can email them to inform them it's on its way via snail mail.

Read the posts in the Facebook forum... but not too much
Facebook has helped make the journey for new auxiliaries much easier than in years past. Lots of teachers will have advice to pass on. However, limit how much you read. Eventually it can become overwhelming and confusing, and it takes personal experience to help you navigate the path to settling into Spain.

Learn Spanish
Especially if you're going to live in a somewhat rural location. In major cities like Madrid and Barcelona, you can probably get away with knowing very little Spanish. But where I am (rural Andalucía), having an intermediate level of Spanish has saved me many times.

Spend lots of time with friends and family at home
You will miss them when you're gone.

Find out how your job figures into your plans
Will you get paid out? Can you get a leave of absence? What happens to any unused vacation / sick time / personal days? 
At my job, I found out that a) I'd accumulated close to 100 sick days, and b) they would disappear once I left. You may as well use up any unused days if they won't be paid out, and take advantage of your health benefits (free massage, anyone?).

Do not bring too many clothes and shoes
New ruby-red shoes! (The locals kept staring at my trainers)
Trust me when I say that one of the best things about Spain is that clothes and shoes are cheap, making the shopping fun! I was initially sad to give away so many good clothes and shoes, but that disappeared quickly my first day shopping here.

You will have to sift through quite a few tips and tricks to settle into Spain. I hope mine help make the transition easier. After your own experience, you will probably also be one of the many to pass on words of wisdom.

Work Hard, Play Hard

When I announced I was moving Spain, some gave me that look and said, “You are going to have so much fun! Relaxing on the beach, meeting men....” There's a widespread notion that Spaniards lay about, acting super-relaxed about everything and hardly working.


Sure, there are some who don't work hard. But a lot of people I've met often work seven days per week. Villacarrillo is an agricultural town with many olive oil factories, one of them being Cooperative del Pilar, the biggest olive oil producer in the world. It's quite common to meet people who have one job in town and also work in the fields / factories. There are others who honestly can't work because of the crisis, so they're taking classes, hoping to find a job. Many Villacarrillians I've met have a boyfriend / girlfriend in another village or city, because that's where the work is. They commute every weekend they can to visit them, sometimes driving 3 to 4 hours each way.

Perhaps another reason for the “Spanish people are lazy” notion, is because of the “siesta”, that midday break where all the stores shut down and everyone supposedly sleeps. Not everyone does the siesta; some consider it a waste of time. It does make sense in Andalucía during the summer; I certainly did it when I first arrived. Now that my body has adjusted to the time difference, and the days are cooler, I continue working instead of napping.

Although I do use what I call a “disco nap” (a term borrowed from the days of Studio 54) before a big night of partying, as I like to go home at 5 a.m., and sometimes later! Sure, in a pueblo we don't have the crazy nightlife of Madrid or Barcelona, but having made good friends makes all the difference. I'm a stumble away from cozy bars, and it's cheap!

One of the first "Spanish" things I did was visit the Úbeda feria:

Although it was small, the medieval feria in Villanueva was tonnes of fun. Lots to look at and eat!

One of the coolest parties I'd ever been to happened here in Villacarrillo. It was a friend's birthday, and she's in her twenties, so we had a 20s – themed party called “Charleston”!

Before the party started, I had to wait for my friends in the paseo (park where people hang out). I learned firsthand the meaning of the word “humiliation”. If you look in Miriam-Webster, you'll see a picture of me in my 20s costume – blond wig, 20s dress, pearls, and red gloves – sitting alone for ages on a park bench, wondering where the f*** my friends are, while locals slowly walk by, staring and giggling at the Asian girl in a Charleston bob wig. One even called out “China Rubia”! (“Blonde Chinese girl!”) I. was. mortified.

BUT the fun I had at the party made up for it.

 When I left Vancouver, I knew one of the things I'd miss was the mountains. Here in Villacarrillo we have La Sierra de Cazorla. With a group, I headed out on a 5-hour hike. It was a great way to put work behind us and soak in the natural beauty. 

So put away that notion that all we're doing is sleeping, drinking, and partying. ....Okay fine, we're doing the latter, but only after punching in the timecard!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Impressions of Village Life

It´s pitch-black when my alarm blares. From under heavy blankets, my feet step out and gingerly avoid the cold ceramic floor, settling into fuzzy slippers. Crossing over to the window, I pull on a tether to raise the squeaky metal blind, which gives way to a dazzling view:
(Ignore the t.v. antenna... peo. like t.v. here)
Yup, I live in Villacarrillo. I will admit, during the first two weeks I was in Úbeda and found out I´d be living in this pueblo, I was S.A.D. (ask my Canadian friend about the breakdown I had via Whatsapp, while on a bus). But after living in Spain for a little over a month, things have improved. I'm loving my pueblo life!

My impressions:

It´s Quiet

The adjustment from living near a 6-lane major city street in Canada, to streets so quiet my heels ricochet like bullets as I walk home from the pub, is a big change.
Siesta time in Villacarrillo at the Paseo, a "park" where people hang out.

A street in Úbeda
When it´s siesta time (2:30 pm), every shop closes (save for Mercadona, a supermarket on the outskirts of town). The exception is the bars. Sundays are like an all-day siesta, and every store, save for a few bars, is closed. Heaven help you if you forgot to buy food on Saturday. 
But, don´t fret because...

People are Warm and Want to Help

The day I moved into my piso, it was during siesta time so I couldn´t buy food to cook lunch. My lovely neighbour upstairs invited me to her table, and made an awesome meal. She has a modest income, so her regular generosity has not been unnoticed by me. She treats me like part of her family and I have hung out many times with her 5,000,000 cousins.

In town, everyone says "Hasta luego", or the Andalucian anti-cons onant version, "Ah-ehhh-oh!" It can be either a greeting, to acknowledge you see a person but are on your way somewhere, or it´s a "Bye!" at the end of a conversation.

"Villacarrillians", in General, have Modest Incomes

Little things led me to this conclusion, such as all the lights being off in the shops and bars during the day. I thought they were closed! Then I looked inside and realized they were conserving power. Electricity and hot water are expensive here. I can now cook a meal and get dressed in near-darkness! Plus, we pay for cold water, a big change from living in Canada where it's basically free.
In the evening, hallways are often dark while I teach at the school.
The school I work at is also on a low budget. The first clue was the lack of TP and hand-dryers in the students' washrooms (although the teachers' washroom is a whole other story - it's practically luxurious compared to the students'). Also, when students need a photocopy, they have to take the original to the office and pay 5 cents per page. Crazy!
A "brasero" in the teachers' lounge. It's how we'll stay warm this winter.
It Got Cold FAST

Within a week of arriving, hot sweaty days were replaced by cold mornings and nights. Sometimes there's rain. And fog. Feels very familiar to me...
Sometimes, *this* is my morning view.
I Am Popular

If you're the only native speaker for miles around, you are like GOLD to the English academies and students here. I am working like a dog, but in light of the crisis I am extremely lucky. Every week I literally turn away work; I'm too busy! One of the great advantages of being the only native speaker is meeting new people. I say hi to students and neighbours every day. It feels so friendly!

I'm Getting the Best Immersion Ever

Honestly, every day I thank myself PROFUSELY that I learned some Spanish in Canada - enough to hold a conversation, at least. Young people here are learning English, but are very reluctant to speak it. Thanks to my Spanish ability, I've had adventures that I'll share in my next post.
A view of la Sierra from a downtown street.

My hometown's city hall never looked as good as Villacarrillo's

Monday, September 30, 2013

Out the Window

Damn you, Spain bloggers.  :)  I read so many of your entries before coming here, and although most of your information was extremely helpful, I built up a pre-conceived notion that it would be an easy, glamorous move here. How naive of me.

What I'm throwing out the window:

Everything falling into place quickly: I stupidly thought that within a week I'd find an apartment, have a cell plan, a bank account, and my job schedule worked out. Hells to the no. The only thing that happened quickly was gaining friends. I've met some really nice chicas in Úbeda.

Cheap rent: Ha ha ha ha ha. Although I live in a tiny pueblo (pop. 13,000), my rent is more expensive than most Auxiliaries. I tried but couldn't find someone to share my piso with me. Plus, in my village, anything under 2 bedrooms is unheard of, and the ones that are only 1 bedroom cost the same as a 3-bedroom anyway. Not to mention I have a cat, which makes some people balk at having me as a roomate. While most have managed to find housing for E150 - 250, I'm paying E290, not including bills. Ai ya!

  Clubbing - it's a pueblecito, plus I'm jet-lagged
  Travel - (local bus company)Alsa, I hate you
  Fine dining - it's super-uncomfortable eating alone here, therefore I'm limited to mostly dive-bars. Thank goodness the food here is good, cheap, and quick.
  Dating - being the only Filipina, I don´t think the locals know what to make of me. Plus it seems all of the men my age are married with kids. I may as well throw out the condoms now.

What I'm welcoming with open arms:

MASSIVE apartment: my 3-bedroom piso is f'ing huge. It's practically a journey to go from the foyer to the bedroom - I love it! The extra rooms will go far in helping me develop my hobbies, e.g. photography. And the VIEWS.... I can't wait to post a video for y'all.

Warm people: yes, I get a lot of stares but I've smiled back and learnt how to greet people. The ones I've gotten to know have been lovely and super-helpful. I actually have enjoyed my quiet, pueblo life. My glamorous city life seems so long ago.

Best coffee ever: and I'm not even talking about the cafés. I make café con leche in my piso and it's AWESOME.

Cheap nights out: a glass of tinto de verano = E1.70 max. Each glass comes with free tapas. Dinner last night? E2.00

Beautiful streets and views:
Úbeda side street

Úbeda restaurants at night

My Spanish: it's gotten SO MUCH better, and it's only been a couple of weeks!

True, things didn't happen the way I thought they would. But that's life, isn't it? The good things that did happen were pleasant surprises, and I'm really happy about them.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Letter to my Spanish Teacher

A couple of days after arriving in Andalucía, I was slightly freaking out because of culture shock. I decided to let it all out to my Spanish teacher back home:

Sorry, but I need to write in English because it is overwhelming being here in Spain, especially in Andalucía! Profe [Teacher], you were right, I am CRAVING English right now! I speak en español all the time, which is excellent for my advancement. The first two days, I could NOT understand what people were saying here. "Es veinte-tres centigrados aqui, hace calor! [It's 23 degrees, so hot!]" becomes "Eve'tre'cengraohkee, cecalo." I'm actually scared to talk, which is unusual for me. But already after only a few days it is getting easier and easier to understand people . Almost no one speaks English, or if they do they WON'T speak it with me except for a few people. So I'm happy about that; no doubt I'll be close to fluent soon!

It was a little bit stressful in the beginning because it was a bit of trouble getting my cat here. I was so relieved when he was finally with me in the hotel in Madrid. From there we took a train down to Linares-Baeza, with Renfe. All of the staff loved him and called him "Precioso". Dijé que se llama "Gordito" [I said his name is "Fatty"]. I had to balance his cat carrier on top of my gigantic 23kg suitcase, while wearing a large backpack. Yay.

We're now in Úbeda, one of the most beautiful cities I've ever been in. I am going to work really hard to live here, perhaps by negotiating my work schedule with the school. I haven't visited the village I'm working in yet but when I mention it to locals they all say, "Ew. It's boring there." One lady even said, "People go there to die." Great.

And it's so cheap to go out here! I met some local girls and we had tapas. I ordered 3 tinto de veranos [summer wine] and each time, they brought out a free tapas plate. I paid only 6 euros!!!! Unbelievable.

Well, today is Sunday and everything except the bars are closed, so I'm going to enjoy my day off and relax. 'sta luego! Y de nuevo, gracias por los lecciones españoles, que yo puedo hablar con la gente aqui. [And again, thank you for the Spanish lessons, so I can speak with the people here]

Monday, September 16, 2013

Can't Eat Alone in Spain

One unusual fact about me: I can eat alone in a restaurant. I've done it, and I usually like it. Except here in Spain.

On my first trip here, in 2005, I was alone and had no problem eating alone in Madrid and Seville. Granted, I had a few tricks up my sleeve, one of which was finding restaurants that were not super-crowded. I didn't always end up eating the best food, but at least I felt comfortable. It's easy to eat alone in the big cities.

Fast-forward to 2013 in Úbeda, a small town where everyone notices everything. Especially an Asian. Especially an Asian female that eats alone. I have gotten to know a few locals, but I'm not the type that needs to cling to someone everytime I feel lonely.

Today being Sunday, and having neglected to buy groceries the day before, everything was closed. Bars were open, so I decided to go out for dinner. I searched for a restaurant where I would be comfortable eating alone: a place not too crowded, or that had other singles. Or a place that was not too dead, because I didn't want to be in the spotlight for eating alone.

I ended up walking for an hour, starving. Every restaurant had people eating with others. I could not find a single restaurant where someone was eating alone. As I kept walking, a strange feeling of loneliness mixed with wanting to hide grew inside me. In a moment of desperation I tried to go to Mas y Mas to buy groceries, so I could scuttle back to my apartment and cook, but it was closed.

I finally found a place where I could sit inside and not be too much of a center of attention. It had no atmosphere, and terrible lighting, but luckily a futbol game was on and I could concentrate on that.

In Canada, I was lucky that I could hide amongst a huge population filled with Asians and other single eaters. Here, I feel like there's a magnifying glass on me. In the culture of Spain, where singularity seems to be a foreign concept, I am going to have to adapt. 

I am so buying groceries tomorrow.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Airlines Almost Killed Me

Finally, after weeks of holding in my emotions while embarking on  my journey to Madrid, I collapsed onto my hotel bed and sobbed. I stared at the ceiling and let it all out.

It all started about 10 days prior, in my hometown. I had mapped out the steps to fly my cat over to Spain. I did my research, consulted with British Airways Cargo and the veterinarians, and scheduled my appointments early. I did them all without a car - save for the cat appointment where my friend was kind enough to drive us there, because the carrier was too large to lug onto the metro. All other appointments took an hour or more to travel to.

Just when I thought all of the paperwork had been taken care of, I received an email the day before my flight: the vet at Heathrow airport claimed the certificate I'd sent was an outdated format. But when I compared London's version to the Canadian agency's version, it was almost exactly the same. I sent an email explaining that the flight was the next day; could they accept the version I'd already sent? Meantime, I made an emergency trip to the vet with London's certificates, begging him to fill it out.

Why was I sent an email so late? I had informed B.A. Cargo that I did not have internet readily accessible, and had provided my phone number. They failed to phone me and used email instead. For the entire day I was on pins and needles, praying Heathrow would accept the old certificates. Which they did, at the 11th hour. Thank goodness.

The next day I headed to B.A. Cargo to process the cat's paperwork. The inspector looked at my cat and his carrier, and remarked, "That container is too small. Did you read the regulations I sent you?" I replied that I had before buying the carrier, and pointed out that I had personally seen my cat stand up and turn around in it pefectly fine. Luckily he accepted my statement.

Unluckily, the bill for my cat turned out to be $700. I was floored. But I paid it, and my cat was put in the cargo hold while I boarded the plane above him. We set off for Heathrow.

A day after arriving in Madrid, I took a cab to Iberia cargo. I naively assumed it would take only a few minutes. Thank goodness my cabbie offered to help me with translation, because it ended up being a journey: back and forth between three buildings, security checks, and paper stamping. Plus the usual Spanish breaks, where we had to wait until the administration returned. Meantime, the cabbie's meter was running. With all the stress I felt and rapid Spanish involved, I was willing to pay anything to have him help me. Unfortunately, it involved having to tolerate his "touchiness". 

Let me say this about myself: although Canada can be physically a "colder" country than parts of Europe, I am fairly liberal. I'm okay with kisses on the cheek, hugs, a lingering touch. But Mr. Octopus cab driver was too touchy. And I know this because my instinct told me, because I was still thinking about it hours later. He kept stroking my cheek, saying I was beautiful, putting his arm around me. I would shut him down and break away, but I also had to tolerate his crap because I was beyond stressed and needed his assistance.

Finally, when it came time to pick up the cat, I was shocked to see him come out in a HUGE carrier. It was literally big enough to house a pitbull, and the top of it came to my waist. Apparently Heathrow decided my original carrier was too small, which I still disagree with. 
Come on.
The new carrier was so big that when I was lugging it to my hotel room, it blocked the entire width of the hallway. A guy that couldn't pass me was kind enough to carry it to my door. The cat and I went in, I let him out of the cage, lay on the bed, and cried. I felt incredibly guilty for putting him through the journey, and I felt relief that probably the worst of it was over.

You have to be a really tough person to be able to fly your pet. Knowing what I know now, I probably would have tried harder to find someone to adopt him while I was away. Thank goodness we're safe and can continue settling in our new country.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

He Llegado - I've Arrived

All I want to say right now, at midnight Spain time and having had very little sleep and some Spanish wine, is that I have arrived alive and somewhat intact. Due to weight limits and breaking bag zippers, unfortunately I had to let go of some pretty sweet shoes (I know, I'm such a f***ing girl), sunglasses, and awesome chocolate at the airport.

Look out for a post about the ordeal I had with my cat.

Buenas noches.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Career Change

When you work in a high-intensity industry for years, and then announce you're moving to a sunny, relaxed country on the other side of the world to teach English, people get confused.

For 13 years I have been an Editor at a television news station, where it's all about "if it bleeds, it leads", turning around a story in sometimes less than 20 minutes, calm, matter-of-fact anchors on your screen while in the background people are yelling and putting out fires. High-intensity sometimes, but thrilling.
It's not like this, but good movie otherwise.
When I sent out the company email announcing my impending plan, some expressed surprise at my career choice. I'm going from sitting with a reporter and crafting how to tell a two-minute story with two hours of footage, to teaching students why we can say a few books but not a few water *.  For 13 years, I came to the same place, worked with the same people, and overall did the same tasks. To say I'm about to embark on a big change is an understatement. Going from that to teaching English as a Foreign Language may seem like a strange choice, until you see my circumstances: Canadian; moving to a country with a poor job market; no EU passport; not yet fluent in Spanish. The thing is, the lure of Spain is too great: fantastic weather, fantastic food, an opportunity to become fluent, and great proximity to other countries for travel. After lots of research into how to make income while in Spain, it was clear that my only job choice was to teach. Hence getting my CELTA, which I feel was a worthwhile investment for the possible return in job opportunities and salary.

Many ask if I will ever return to News. Perhaps. I know I love to edit. With the part-time schedule I'll have as an English teacher, this coming year will see me working on developing my skills and building freelance work.

* Count nouns vs. non-count nouns.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Great Sexpectations

I was lucky growing up; my parents never put any expectations on me. Whatever career I wanted, whatever I wanted to wear, whatever I did with my love life -- they didn't meddle.
My friends, on the other hand... bless them for being like family. I love them as such. And as such, their expectations for my life in Spain are quite grand, to say the least.
According to their "sexpectations", I will apparently sleep with about 200 hot Spanish men, who will all ask me to marry them after dating for 2 weeks. My husband will turn out to be a prince, who lives in a castle overlooking the pueblo his family owns. Then, when my friends visit, they'll get to stay in a house in said pueblo, for free.

That's quite the prediction.