Hollywood is a continent. Or, hitting my head against a wall.

I try to be useful in class, or at the very least to appear to be useful. So Tuesday in third grade science class, that meant standing at the chalkboard and writing a tally mark every time a team scored a point. And this wasn’t a rousing game of Jeopardy, either; rather, it was preparation for their social science exam that was scheduled for the following day. “Name all of the world’s oceans,” the teacher would say, and suddenly every student’s mouth was open (if they weren’t already talking over the teacher) and they were talking about something, sometimes the question at hand but more often than not their chatter was about a pencil case (oh the drama of the estuche, the Spanish child’s pride and joy) or markers or whatever it is third graders find earth shattering.

“OK, next question. What continent is England on?” The teacher paused and looked at me before continuing. “Remember, this is where Heather is from.” I think my eyes squinted and a puzzled look crossed my face, and I nodded No. She nodded back, Yes. I nodded No! And she returned my nod with an audible “Yes!”

Keep in mind that there are three, and only three, auxiliares at our small school, and we are all American. I also gave a PowerPoint presentation with pictures of my home, information about my state, and answered at least five questions post-PowerPoint about what country I am from. “Are you German?” No, sweetie, I’m from the United States. “Are you from London?” No, London is in England; I’m from the United States, remember? I even resorted to chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” Apparently that was to no avail.

I know that my nationality doesn’t keep anyone up at night, but in my mind, there is a difference between Brits and Americans that I thought would be somewhat recognizable. You know, the accent and all.

“Heather, but where are you from?” the teacher whispered across the room at me. “The United States of America,” I replied, smiling, and she apologetically smiled back. And to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. I realized that I inadvertently told the students the continent I was from, but no matter, no one was paying attention.

“OK, a different question. Heather is from the United States,” the teacher announced, as if it was totally new information. “So what continent is she from?”

As no one was paying attention when I said “the United States of AMERICA,” a student raised her hand and boldly stated that I was from the continent of “Hollywood.” Hollywood. You have got to be kidding me. Hollywood?! Someone had a lot of studying to do that night.

In the other third grade class there is a sweet girl who refuses to speak any English with me who has asked me twice if I am Spanish. Seventy-five percent of the time, I respond to her Spanish questions and statements in English, but somehow she is convinced that there’s a good chance I’m Spanish. “Do I look Spanish to you?” I asked one time. My blonde hair and blue eyes usually gives me away as not quite belonging; sometimes I’m asked if I’m German, French, or English, which I'm not opposed to. She shrugged.

If this class knows that I’m from the U.S. by the end of the year, I think I’ll have done my job.

A turkey named Jesús.

The day before Thanksgiving involved some scrambling here. Of course, Thanksgiving isn't a holiday in Spain, but there are plenty of Americans living abroad who are buying every can of pumpkin pie filling, every bag of marshmallows, and all of the French Fried Onions that they can get their hands on. As for us, our only "need" was pumpkin pie filling, which arrived at 8:30 PM the night before Thanksgiving on a truck at Taste of America (an American foods store for homesick Americans who have some money to spend...which is why we only stop in there for an emergency; six 15 ounce cans of Libby's 100% Pure Pumpkin constituted such an emergency). We had a few hours to make pumpkin chiffon pies for teachers and our Thanksgiving dinner the following day. My Mimi's recipe never fails to be a hit. 

Wednesday evening I also had my first tutoring class with a new family in our neighborhood. What better way to spread American Thanksgiving cheer than to make hand turkeys? These six- and four-year-old cousins loved it. I asked them to name their turkeys, and the little girl promptly replied, "Se llama Jesús." We're working on the English. 

A turkey named Jesús.

A turkey named Jesús.

It felt strange to be going to work on Thanksgiving Day, when I would normally be vegging out in my pjs, watching the Macy's Day Parade. However, I made the best of it and geared up for making even more hand turkeys and talking about what Thanksgiving is all about with my second graders. I tried the "What are YOU thankful for?" discussion, but it seemed a little abstract in English for my seven-year-old friends. Ah, well. We talked about turkey and stuffing and said "gobble, gobble, gobble!" and they just loved coloring their birds blue and purple (?) and gluing feathers on.

Yup, I  did  write out what U.S.A. stands for, because some of these kids still think I'm from the U.K.

Yup, I did write out what U.S.A. stands for, because some of these kids still think I'm from the U.K.

I came home to take a quick nap ("Tea-chair! Tea-chair! Look at my pavo!" said fifty-plus times will wear on you after a while), bake some pumpkin cream cheese muffins, and then we were off to spend Thanksgiving at an American family's home in Alcalá. We had a magnificent feast, with ten people's contributions that included turkey, macaroni and cheese, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, a traditional Colombian bread (one guest was Colombian), mashed potatoes, mulled wine, and pumpkin chiffon pies, pumpkin muffins, and chocolate cake. Afterwards, one guest got out her guitar and we sat around and sang some beautiful songs, like the one below. The evening was a little bit of heaven here on earth.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.

Great is Thy faithfulness! / ¡Oh, tu fidelidad!
Great is Thy faithfulness! / ¡Oh, tu fidelidad!
Morning by morning new mercies I see / Cada momento la veo en mí
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided / Nada me falta, pues todo provees
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me! / ¡Grande, Señor, es tu fidelidad!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

I am thankful to be in Spain, for new friends, for an opportunity to see more of this world. I am thankful for "strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow," all the blessings that are mine in Christ both now and forevermore. Amen.