On the Edge of a Precipice.

It feels as if I’m standing on the edge of a cliff.

My toes are hanging over the side and it’s just like in the movies where small rocks break off and you watch them fall down, down, down, never seeing them hit the bottom.  I feel a mix of emotions: fear, nervousness, excitement.

No, I’m not at the Grand Canyon, nor have a magically discovered some cliff in the middle of Normal, Illinois.  It’s all a metaphor, you see, wherein the cliff represents life as I’ve known it the past 23 years.  And just over the edge of the cliff?  That’s the deep, dark abyss of adulthood.

Geesh, could you be any more dramatic?

Don’t try me, you snarky blog voice!

But why the theatrics, you ask?  Why this ominous metaphor?  Well, if you remember the cliffhanger (haha, get it?!) of the last post I left you with, I guess it just makes sense to start from there.

Finally arriving to my house from Spain was incredible; the feeling of familiarity and safety washed over me, and a hug from my mom and cats was all I needed to feel at home.  However, that feeling didn’t last long.  After a mere 17 hours, I was back on another flight, this time to New Jersey.  You see, time was of the essence; my Skype interview in Brussels had gone well, and the principal wanted me to do a demo lesson.  The problem was, she was going on vacation and wanted someone to recommend to the board ASAP.  It was a huge risk.  First, I didn’t have long to prepare an outstanding lesson, and second, it was going to be hella expensive to fly out on such short notice.  But, considering I didn’t have any other job leads at the time, it was a risk I had to take.

So, before I knew it, I was in New Jersey and thanking my lucky stars I had such an incredible boyfriend who took care of my accommodations so I could focus on lesson prep.  And in the blink of an eye, it was all over.  I had taught my lesson on story structure.  I walked out of the school feeling relieved (it was all over, it was out of my hands), but despite the lesson having gone well, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t good enough.  Did it “wow” them?  Was it rigorous enough?  Had I interacted with the students enough?  Were they even engaged?  These questions ran through my head for the next hour.

And then the call came.

Yashas and I were at the train station and the connection was bad, so I had to run outside.  My heart was pounding in my chest.  Surely they couldn’t have made a decision this soon?  They must be deliberating about other candidates but knew I was out.  I held my breath.

“We’d like to offer you the job.”

The smile that spread across my face was immediate.  I was in utter disbelief, and I’m pretty sure I asked her, “Really?!”  She proceeded to give me some details, but I barely heard a word because I was so excited.

The rest of the weekend felt like floating on air.  Yashas deemed it a weekend to celebrate and treated me to a night in a glitzy hotel (hello Ritz Carlton robes!).  We had lots of fun exploring NYC and seeing Chloe and celebrating with delicious food.

Since then, we’ve apartment hunted online, Yashas apartment hunted in person, we agreed on a place, we signed a lease, I flew back out to New Jersey, filled out some paperwork, we got the keys to our place, bought a bed, and now I’m back in Normal trying to scrounge together all the things I need to bring for my big move.

So, back to my cliff metaphor.  That cliff represents Normal, Illinois, the Midwest, my time with my family.   It represents my childhood, growing up, my oldest and dearest friends. It’s life as I’ve known it.  But that abyss into which I’m about to dive head first?  It represents my new 5th grade teacher position with a fantastic co-teacher at Central Elementary School in East Hanover, NJ.  It represents a gorgeous new apartment in Montclair with my new roommate, who also happens to be my boyfriend.  Next week, I’ll be starting something brand new.

That abyss terrifies me and excites me all at the same time.  I have no idea what my life will look like a week from now, a month from now…  But I do know I’m lucky.  I’m lucky to have my family and my friends supporting me.  I’m lucky to have an incredible boyfriend to call home.  I’m lucky to be doing what I love, which is teaching.  I can’t wait to feel the rush of adrenaline as I finally step off that edge and plunge into this new life.

(PS: Here are some pictures of some things from this summer)






Visiting sister in Nebraska


Dad/Daughter Duo Do Europe.

First thing’s first: I’M HOME!  Back in the US, back in Illinois, and (I’m cringing while I type this) back to Normal. Life is insane right now and there’s so much to catch up on, but I like my chronology, so I’ll start from where I left off in my last post.

And that, my friends, is when the great Kenley Kaisershot flew halfway across the world just to accompany his daughter on a Euro Adventure.

I’ll tell ya what, the feeling of sheer happiness I felt when I saw my dad walk through those doors in the airport was astounding.  I was so excited to see him, and of course he rolled his eyes at the fact that I was filming his grand entrance, but hey, what are ya gonna do?  We spent that first day in Madrid trying to ward off dad’s jet lag.  First up was the Mercado San Miguel where we got some muchies to tide us over for the walking tour we then went on.  I know what you’re thinking: Kasey, you’ve been in Madrid for a year.  Why did you go on a walking tour?! Well, that’s an excellent question, and I’ll tell you why: you can live in a place for a year and still know nothing about!  Okay, so I knew some things, but it was actually really fun.  Plus I learned that the whole obsession with ham originated during the Spanish Inquisition because only Catholics could eat ham, unlike the other religions.  Pretty interesting.  Dad even got called out for taking a siesta during the tour.  Hey, he got the hang of being a Spaniard pretty fast if you ask me!  In the evening I took him to my favorite mercado, the Mercado de San Ildefonso, and then it was off to bed for our early day the next day.

Monday: Brussels and All the Food
Early mornings suck, but not as much when you’re traveling to a new destination with your padre! First stop was Brussels, and of course the first thing we did when we got there was eat!  Our taxi driver recommended the area of St. Catherine’s Square for local food, so we got some lunch there.  The day continued with a walking tour, in which we saw the beautiful Grand Place and the Manneken-Pis statue.  Supposedly in the top 3 most disappointing tourist landmarks because it’s so small, but you can’t help but enjoy a fountain of a little boy peeing.  A stop for chocolate at Neuhaus was necessary after that (hello, Belgian chocolate?!), and then another Belgian specialty: frites!  We went to this little fry shop called Tabora and got huge cones of fries topped with curry ketchup and giant sauce.  They even chopped the potatoes and fried them right in front of us.  It was amazing.  That night, we went to a bar called Delirium, which is known for its hundreds and hundreds of selections of beers.  I tried a cherry beer (gross) and then a lambic beer which is common in Brussels and was also gross.  Oh well!








Tuesday: Ghent and the Torture Room
After a short train ride, we found ourselves in Ghent ready to explore what else Belgium had to offer.  And it offered us a nice tour through an old Medieval castle.  It was really neat to walk through the different rooms and go up the towers to look out over the city.  Oh yeah, and there was a torture room filled with all kinds of devices for Medieval torture.  And I thought people nowadays are sadistic…

We followed up the castle tour with lunch near the river.  On the menu: waterzooi, which is a typical stew dish in Belgium.  It basically reminded me of chicken noodle soup but with potatoes instead of noodles.  It was pretty tasty!  With our stomachs full, we took a boat tour up and down the river and admired the architecture of the beautiful town.  When we returned to Brussels in the evening, we got dinner and then saw Grand Place all lit up with beautiful lights.  It was a great end to the day.






Wednesday: Brussels and Of Course We Ate a Waffle!
First up on Wednesday’s agenda was a visit to the Atomium, a giant sculpture/building shaped like an iron atom.  It was originally built for the 1958 world fair and is now a museum.  We had to ride in these escalators between the different rooms in the balls, so it was pretty neat.  But of course, I felt like I was going to throw up the entire morning because I had a Skype interview that afternoon for a teaching position.

So, when we got back to the hotel, I was running around the hotel room trying to set everything up (Phone on the desk? No, too low, prop it up on the suitcase.  The lighting!!!  Can you even see me?  Crap, make the beds so I don’t look like a slob!).  Then my dad gave me some privacy and I sat there for 10 minutes waiting. 2:00 came around and no call.  I started panicking; we had to check out of our hotel at 3:00 pm!  Got an email that they would have to call me later, around my 3:00!  So I called my dad, tried not to start crying, and we packed up and checked out.  Luckily, the woman at the front desk said I could use the first floor lounge area as a quiet space, so I had to reset everything. Before long , the interview was over, and by the next day they had emailed me to say they wanted to see me do a demo lesson!

A treat was in order after that fiasco, so we went to Maison Dandoy for a Belgian waffle!  Dad got brown sugar on his and I got strawberries and chocolate sauce on mine.  SO. GOOD.  We walked some more and then made our way to the airport.

Except we got there and realized it was the wrong airport.

And the airport we needed was a 40 minute drive away.

Cue panicky Kasey part 2.  After a quick analysis, we determined there was a chance we could still make it if we got a cab.  So we wandered around the whole airport area with no cabs to be seen (wtf, it’s an airport?!).  Finally we spotted some, and a speeding driver and 200 euros later, we had made it to the correct airport.  Thankfully there was no line at security and we made the flight!

We made it to Berlin safely and on time, grabbed some McDonald’s for dinner (hey, it was late, don’t judge us), checked in to our hotel, and passed the eff out.




Thursday: Berlin and Historical Stuff
A stressful day previously called for a delicious breakfast, so we went to an adorable hipster café called House of Small Wonders.  I’m salivating just thinking about it.  We got some bus tour tickets (the walking tours were taking a toll on us) and rode around to different parts of the city while learning a little bit of the background and history.  We saw the Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Wall memorial, Checkpoint Charlie, and the Holocaust memorial, all of which were really interesting to see.  Plus, it’s great having a guy like my dad around to explain some of the historical aspects that I wasn’t alive for!

For dinner, dad got some Hungarian goulash while I got some sausages with a pretzel.  We also got some apple strudel for dessert, which was super tasty.  We ended the night with a stroll to the Alexanderplatz area and got some drinks by the river before heading to the hotel for the night.











Friday: Berlin and More Food Because We Can’t Stop and We Won’t Stop
The fact that we started the day at the Holocaust museum was very sobering.  Thinking about the sheer number of people that were affected by this horrific event and everything they went through was mind-boggling.  I don’t think I’ll ever understand it, but it doesn’t make my heart hurt any less.

We continued the day with a boat tour (we like all kinds of tours if you can’t tell) and ate Weiner schnitzel for dinner.  We also split another apple strudel (you have to compare these things, you know), as well as this random pancake pastry thing with figs, called a kaiserschmarrn.  Hey, it had part of our name in it, we had to.  It started pouring down rain but we were treated with a double rainbow all the way across the sky, which was a great way to end the last full day in Berlin.



Saturday: Prague and Yet Another Tour and Even More Food
An early morning and a 5 hour bus ride later, we were in a new city in a new country: Prague.  And what better way to start the day than with a walking tour!!!  We walked through Old Town, the new section, and the Jewish quarter, as well as Wenceslas Square.  We also saw the famous astrological clock and its “performance,” walked along the river, and ate the local delicacy of fried cheese and steak in cream sauce for dinner, lol.


Sunday: Prague and a Colorful Wall
Item number 1 on the agenda was to cross the Charles Bridge to check out the John Lennon wall, which is basically a wall covered in graffiti and John Lennon quotes and pictures.  After that, we took the funicular railway up Petrin Hill to walk around the park and check out the views of the city.  After our hike down, we stopped to enjoy another local delicacy: trdelník, which is a dough rolled into a cylindrical shape.  Dad got some caramel in his while I got ice cream in mine.  Deeeelish!




Monday: Madrid and Exploring
We made our way back to Madrid Monday afternoon and for some reason decided it would be a good idea to walk around a lot.  I showed dad Retiro Park and the Crystal Palace, and basically we just wandered around a bunch.  Luckily, the hotel we stayed at had a rooftop bar, so we spent our evening there having drinks and great conversation.

Tuesday: Madrid and the Final Goodbye
Before I knew it, it was my final day in Spain.  I introduced dad to churros con chocolate at the famous San Ginés, and then we took a bus to Villanueva for the last time.  I showed dad the building where I had lived (shoutout to Calle Jacinto Benavente, 27 Portal 1 Piso 1A!) and Calle Cristo where all the restaurants and bars are.  We got a drink while we waited for Anahí to come back from Madrid so I could pick up the suitcases I had left at her house.  After she joined us for a drink, she gave my dad a “tour” of the town in her car so he could see the school, and then we went back to her house to pick up the suitcases.  Anahí and her husband generously offered to drive us to Madrid so we didn’t have to take the bus back, so we rode in the car and talked and chatted and trying to avoid the inevitable.  But, alas, we arrived at the hotel before long and I had to say my goodbyes to Anahí.

It was terrible.

We were both crying in the hotel lobby, probably getting weird looks from strangers, but it was just so terrible!  When you have such an amazing co-teacher and friend for the year and then have to say goodbye with no immediate plans of seeing each other again?  It sucks!!  When they finally left, I was just in a melancholy mood.  I was so excited to go home, yet so sad to leave.  But, all that being said, I am SO thankful my dad took the time off work to come travel with me.  Despite drowning in all the dad jokes, it was so great spending time with him and exploring with him.  Now that I’m an adult, it was so special getting to know him as a person rather than just as my dad, and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity with him. Love you dad!


Wednesday: USA and Home
A 2.5 hour flight to Dublin, a 3 turned to 5 hour layover, and an 8 hour flight to Chicago later and I was back on American soil.  All I wanted to do was get home, but of course my car battery had died while sitting in the parking lot the last week and a half, so we had to wait on that to get jumped.  But finally we were on the road and after 2 hours, I was back in my house, hugging my mom and cats.

Home.  It’s the place where I feel the most comfortable and it’s the place with the people I love most.  It felt incredible being back after 6 months.  But I only got to enjoy it for 17 hours before I was back on another flight…

To Be Continued…

Saying Goodbye.

I wish I had a euro for every goodbye I’ve said this week.  Actually, I wish I had a euro for every tear I’ve shed this week.  Let’s just say this week hasn’t been easy.

My time here has almost come to a close.  My dad arrives tomorrow morning so we can take a final jaunt around Europe, and then it’s adios to Spain and hello to the US.  Therefore, this is my last blog post from Spain, so don’t be surprised if I start crying mid-post.

Last Day of School
Our last day of school with the kiddos was last Thursday the 22nd.  Wow, was that weird.  After spending nearly an entire school year with these kiddos, we couldn’t believe it was time to say goodbye.  Each grade did a special performance (the 3rd graders sang, “La Aventura de Vida” and the 4th graders danced to “Move and Freeze.”) and we had a mostly chill day.  Of course, I cried when I had to say goodbye to my students, and they even gave me a group hug and told me not to be sad.  One of my fave kiddos, Diego, came to me and said, “Tranquila,” which means, “Calm down,” haha!  He’s adorable.  Well, really they all are.  I’m definitely going to miss them.  After the students left, the teachers got a special lunch at school as a thank you for the year, which was nice.  I just can’t believe it’s already over.

Pool Party with Cons and Meri
After the last day of school, the family I tutor for invited me and Anahí and her girls over for a pool party to celebrate the end of the year!  We talked, swam, played with water balloons, and ate snacks.  They wrote me really sweet cards (Meri wrote, “I don’t want you to leave,”) and even gave me a tote bag in Spanish that said, “All the love we have for you won’t fit in this bag.”  Of course, I cried again, but I told them I couldn’t handle another goodbye that day, so I met up with them a couple days ago just to officially say goodbye.  I just felt very fortunate to have worked with that family all year.  María, the mother, and Antonio, the father, were always so friendly and welcoming towards me.  María constantly worries she won’t find another good English teacher for her girls next year!  Cons and Meri were great students and have improved in English a lot  They are both so sweet and energetic!  I’m definitely going to miss all of them.

Friday Shenanigans
Even though the students had finished, the teachers all had to stay at school the next day and the following week to help clean and organize the classrooms.  So, on Friday, Lauren, Mike, and I helped organize the tutoría and then went to get some drinks afterward.  Mike kept saying, “Otra ronda,”  to the server, meaning, “Another round.”  Lauren questioned it, but we decided it probably didn’t matter what we said, as long as we made a circular motion towards the table with our hand.  So we dared Mike to say, “Tres gatos más, por favor,”  which really means, “Three more cats, please.”  He did it and the server actually brought more drinks!  We couldn’t stop laughing.  We also decided to have a random water balloon fight in the town square too.  I’m definitely going to miss hanging out with the assistants.

Night Out with Anahí
Lauren went home for the weekend to surprise her dad for his birthday (Happy 60th, Patrick!), so on Saturday, Anahí and I spent some quality bonding time together!  We went to the pool, got drinks and some Mexican food, and then made an impromptu trip over to Brunete to get these insane milkshakes at the food truck festival happening there!  It was a lot of fun spending time with her.

Cleaning and Saying Goodbye to the Teachers
This past week, the assistants continued helping the teachers take things down from their classrooms, as well as helped move desks and bookshelves so the 3A classroom and the library could switch places.  We also organized the gym supply room, and in the process decided we would play badminton, tennis, volleyball, lacrosse, and baseball.  Then on Wednesday, we got the executive order that we didn’t have to come back for the rest of the week because the teachers had meetings we didn’t need to go to.  So, we had to say goodbye to everyone, which was sad of course.  And you’ll never guess, but I cried. I had some pretty great co-workers this year, and they definitely made my time in Spain more enjoyable and entertaining.  Wishing them the best of luck on their English teaching exams!

Lauren’s mom and aunt got here earlier this week, so it was really great spending time with them!  One thing we did was to go to the water park here in Villanueva de la Cañada, which has been on my bucket list for so long.  Of course, the heat from the past couple weeks decided to disappear the week we wanted to go to the water park, so it was pretty chilly, but totally worth it.  There were so many fun and crazy water slides, but they were all freakin’ dangerous!  I don’t think a single one of us came away unscathed.  The best one was the last slide we went on:  Lauren, her mom, and I all squeezed into this giant raft to go down this tubed slide.  Basically, you go down a hill and into this giant vortex where your tube slides up the sides and water rushes at you from all angles!  So while we tried not to drown, Lauren’s mom was screaming bloody murder as we made our way towards what seemed to be death.  We went down some more hills and our momentum carried us side to side on the slide so forcefully that we were thrown from the raft at the very end.  Cate got a scraped hand and elbow, and my slow motion fall on top of Lauren gave me a skinned knee.  Lauren somehow came away unharmed…well, except for the intense sunburn she got!  It was a great (and eventful!) day.

Two of the Hardest Goodbyes
Today was rough.  Actually, rough is an understatement.  Today, Lauren, Cate, and Jane headed off to Valencia for one last holiday before heading home.  So what did that mean?  Tears and goodbyes.  I headed into Madrid with them this morning and had to part ways with them at Moncloa.  Let the water works begin.  After spending the last 6 months with Lauren as my flatmate, it was impossible to say goodbye, and I couldn’t stop myself from crying.  I am so thankful to have lived with her and to have her as a friend.  We had all sorts of crazy laughs and adventures together, and I’m going to miss her and her family so much.

And if that wasn’t enough, I met up with Minorka for one final Thai food run and shopping sesh.  But before long, I had to say goodbye to her too.  I told myself I wasn’t going to cry; I told myself I should just imagine that I would see her again for brunch soon.  But I couldn’t do it.  We hugged and cried and today has just been miserable.
Lauren and Minorka were my two closest friends in Madrid, and I can’t imagine my time without them.  I am so thankful for their company and companionship while here.  I definitely wouldn’t have enjoyed my time in Spain without these two, so the fact that we are all living in different countries kills me.  But it’s not goodbye, it’s seeya later…but I’m still gonna miss them.

Well, this is it…tomorrow morning, my dad arrives, and we’ll be off.  The next time you hear from me, I’ll be back on US soil, and probably stuffing my face with the macaroni and cheese I’ve been craving for the past few months.

Thank you, Spain. Thanks for the experiences, the memories, and the wonderful friends. From the bottom of my heart, I am grateful.  I’ll see you again one day.  XOXO.

Commiserating with the Wicked Witch of the West.

You know this scene in The Wizard of Oz when the Wicked Witch screams, “I’m melting!”?  Well, let’s just say that if you live in Madrid right now, you know exactly how she feels.  Although, to us, a bucket of water dumped on our heads sounds pretty nice right about now.

With temperatures reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit this past week and no air conditioning to be found, everyone I have talked to has nearly melted.  And people back home keep telling me, “Well Kasey, there’s no humidity, right?  It can’t be that bad…”

Well, it is.

Despite the lack of humidity, I don’t think I’ve ever been hotter in my life.  The sun is so direct that even minutes in the sun can turn me into a tomato (okay, okay, I know that isn’t too difficult for me, but still).  The kids (and teachers) can’t even be in the classrooms right now and have to find reprieve in the halls or outside because it’s simply too hot.  Oh, and we can’t even have fans in all the classrooms because then the electricity would go out altogether.  The walls in our apartment trap all the heat inside, so the fans don’t even do much.  Our faucets shoot out hot water because all the pipes within the walls are too hot for the water to cool off.  I even heard a phrase: En Madrid, hay 9 meses de invierno y 3 de infierno, which translates to, “In Madrid, there are 9 months of winter and 3 months of hell.”  The heat has made us go all but crazy, so we’ve done things like:

  • Take 4 showers in one day
  • Go through 3 bags of ice in one week
  • Stick ice down our shirts
  • Empty a spray bottle and fill it with water to mist ourselves
  • Put our pajamas in the freezer while we shower
  • Freeze a wet towel and wear it around our necks like a scarf
  • Stick our legs out the window to feel some air

Heck, even the kids got directly sprayed with a garden hose at school just so they could cool off.  Poor things…luckily there’s only 1 more week of school.

Alright, enough about the heat.  It’s making me hot just thinking about it.  Here are some other more interesting and less complainy things about the past few weeks:

Last weekend, Lauren and I flew to Dublin to meet up with her mom and aunt for a mini weekend vacation, or holiday as they would call it.  We stayed in Bray and had beautiful ocean views from our hotel.  We spent the days eating and drinking away (of course roast dinner and fish & chips were involved) and admired all the beauty Ireland had to offer.  I tried my first Guinness, which was surprisingly good!  The weather even decided to cooperate with us, and it only rained a little bit.  It was a great, relaxing weekend.  I love spending time with Lauren and her family; they’re like a second family when I’m so far away from my own!

Roomie Date
With our time in Spain quickly coming to an end, Lauren and I are trying to spend as much time together as possible, so the other weekend, we went on a roomie date in Madrid!  We checked out the Feria del Libro de Madrid, which is a GIANT book fair in Retiro Park.  After that, we went to the Museo Nacional del Prado, which is a giant art museum in Madrid.  We checked out some famous works by Goya, Velásquez, and El Greco, and other artists that I studied in Spanish classes way back in 2010.  It was a great day spending time together.

Tortilla Adventures
Anahí told me that we can’t leave Spain without having a Spanish day, so she invited Lauren and I over to her house the other week so we could hang out in her backyard enjoying tinto de verano and Spanish snacks.  We even had a guerra de agua (water fight) with her girls!  She then taught us to make a typical Spanish dish called tortilla de patata, or tortilla Española.  This is an egg and potato dish that is commonly served as a tapa.  Once we learned how to make it, Lauren and I decided, hey, wouldn’t it be funny if we, and American and a Briton, made the dish and brought it for all the teachers at our Friday lunch?  So we did, and what an adventure it was.  Everything went without a hitch until we got to the most difficult part: the flip.  Anahí and other teachers had told me that their first attempts at flipping a tortilla resulted in a giant mess of egg and potato and onion all over the floor, so you can imagine that we non-Spaniards would be a little intimidated by the task.  Since we didn’t have a plate large enough to cover the pan to flip it, we had to use the lid of the pan which isn’t ideal because of its curve.  So I went to pick up the pan and realized that it was way too heavy for me to flip one-handed!  I started freaking out and getting really nervous, but I counted to 3 and boom, a successful flip!  Only a little chunk hadn’t made it out of the pan, but we managed to squish it back in, no problem.  We even got the stamp of approval from the teachers the following day, woohoo!


School/Tutoring Happenings
Let’s just say that the end of a Spanish school year isn’t the most productive; combined with the heat and the absence of Trinity pressure, we’ve been taking it easy most days!  We’ve had a couple field trips lately: one to an animal rescue center to learn about the different rescued birds, and one bike/scooter trip through the town with police escorts.  We’ve also been practicing our end of the year performances a lot…they are this week, so wish us luck, lol!

Even tutoring had been a lot of fun the past couple weeks!  Because it’s been so hot, we’ve been having class in the girls’ swimming pool in their backyard, playing games in English and just having fun.  I’m really gonna miss my tutoring families!

– T-minus 13 days until my dad arrives in Spain!  My friend Minorka and I had been planning an end of the year trip before we went back home, but unfortunately, med school requirements got in the way and she has to go home earlier than expected.  So, my dad is coming to travel with me!  We’ll be going to Brussels, Ghent, Berlin, and Prague, and I couldn’t be more excited!

–  T-minus 24 days until I’m stateside!  I can’t believe my time here in Spain is coming to a close so quickly, but I’m looking forward to seeing my family, friends, and boyfriend soon.


Gonna miss this girl…


…and this view.

Wishing everyone well and hope you’re doing a better job at beating the heat than I am!

In Barcelona.

Well, the whole point of that title was to use a catchy line from Ed Sheeran’s song, “Barcelona,” but since that was literally the only line that used the word “Barcelona,” it will have to do.  But if you want to sing the title to the tune of the song (and understand where the subheadings for the post came from), you can listen to it here.

If you remember from my last post, I mentioned that Elaine, my friend from Purdue, was going to visit me.  She was here for about a week and we did all kinds of things so I could show her what life in Spain is like.  She spent her time exploring Madrid during the day when I was teaching (including spending plenty of time in Retiro Park and the Prado Museum), but then we met up in the evenings to hang out and eat.  Some things we did in Madrid:

  • Drinking sangria in Plaza Mayor
  • Stuffing our faces with Thai food with Lauren and Sofía
  • Exploring the Royal Palace
  • Visiting the Templo de Debod
  • Eating arepas at the Mercado de San Ildefonso
  • Drinking delicious mojitos and daquaris at the sand bar at Ojalá
  • Indulging in chocolate con churros at San Ginés
  • Meeting up with Minorka, Elizabeth, and Lauren to have rooftop mojitos at Círculo de Bellas Artes
  • Enjoying Mexican cuisine, including nachos and enchiladas

Yes, I am aware that most of those things included eating and drinking, but hey, that’s the best part of traveling in my opinion!  Besides, we did plenty of walking to make up for it!


Then, on Friday evening, we took the high-speed Ave train to Barcelona!  I had been wanting to visit Barcelona since day one of my time in Spain and finally got the opportunity.  I was so excited to see the sites and explore the city with Elaine (who makes a wonderful travel partner, by the way) that nothing could put a damper on my excitement!

Until we walked into our hostel room.

1 of our 6 other roommates was in the room when we arrived, and the first thing out of her mouth? “You didn’t already pay for this room, did you?  It’s terrible!”

Oh no.

Elaine and I looked at each other and probed her for more information.  What had we gotten ourselves into?!  The girl started rattling off various issues with the hostel: the bathrooms weren’t clean, you had to press the knob on the shower every 10 seconds to get the water to flow, our roommates smelled really bad, etc.  Well, Elaine and I decided not to be deterred; we would make the most of the situation.  After all, it was only 3 nights.  We could survive!  So we grabbed a slice of pizza from a nearby cafe, tested the shower (knob thing was true, but boy was that water pressure good) and laid down for our first night in the hostel.

Which turned out to be one of the worst nights of sleep I’ve ever had in a hostel.  Our roommates all decided to come in at various times making various noises and the people outside the hostel wouldn’t be quiet.  Elaine later compared the noise to Jurassic Park!  But I bought some earplugs for the next night and my life changed for the better!

“We’ll dance around La Sagrada Familia…”

But anyway, that morning, we headed to the Sagrada Familia, the giant cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudí that is still under construction for at least the next 10 years or so.  It was incredible!  The outside was so detailed and intricate and in a weird way made me feel extremely uncomfortable (you know trypophobia? it was just too many holes and natural elements that reminded me of body parts).  It was still beautiful though!  But the inside was fascinating!  The pillars that held up each of the towers were built to look like trees, and there were so many beautiful stained glass windows.  It was incredible!  We also got to walk around the museum afterwards to see some of the models Gaudí had built for the construction of the cathedral.

Next up on our Gaudí day?  Parque Güell!  We went to the monumental section first to see all of Gaudí’s work.  It was so colorful and whimsical and intricately designed.  It feels slightly like being in a Dr. Seuss book at times.  We walked around and enjoyed the beautiful weather and also explored the Gaudí House Museum, which had been Gaudí’s house during the construction of the Sagrada Famila.  We were even treated to some talented electric violinists playing covers of popular songs while we walked around the park!  We got a little lost trying to leave the park, but we finally got out and walked back toward our hostel.  We eventually went to eat some pasta and get drinks and stop at a doughnut shop recommended by Minorka called Boldú.  Then, we said goodnight to our first full day in the beautiful city of Barcelona.






“Drinking sangria, mi niña, te amo mi cariña…”

A quick breakfast at the hostel and we were off to join a free walking tour around the Gothic Quarter of the city.  We saw the Barcelona Cathedral, City Hall, the official residence of the president, where the king and queen had lived a long time ago, a beautiful church called Santa María del Mar, and an area called El Born.  When we finished, we went to a restaurant in the area and enjoyed some vegetable paella and some sangria de cava, followed by some ice cream.  It was impossibly delicious! We made a stop by Casa Batlló, yet another creepy looking house designed by Gaudí.  Then, exhausted, we made our way back to the hostel where we took a quick nap and then made our way back out to grab a slice of pizza and head to a bar to see a live flamenco show.  The performers were very talented and impressive!



Lamp post designed by Gaudí – his first work



Las Ramblas, I’ll meet you…”

On Monday morning, we decided to fit in everything we hadn’t yet had a chance to do.  First up was walking along the street called La Rambla, which is a wide pathway that leads from city center to the beach.  It’s lined with trees and various stands with vendors trying to sell their wares.  We strolled at a casual pace to the beach, where we stuck our toes (and accidentally our shins) in the Mediterranean. On the way back, we stopped at La Boquería, a huge market!  Between the 2 of us, Elaine and I had 3 fresh juices in various flavors, a mini quiche, a veggie pastry, 2 chorizo and cheese stuffed pockets, a cheese stick, and 2 ice cream cones.  We were STUFFED, but everything was so incredibly delicious.  We then had to make our way back to the hostel to pick up our bags, and along the way we had the coolest experience ever.

While we were walking, we stepped foot into this plaza that was absolutely swarming with pigeons.  Why are they all here?  we wondered.  We soon found out.  Making our way across the plaza, we saw some pigeons on people’s arms and hands.  We were practically gawking when a kind man said, “Here, take some bird seed!  They’ll just come land in your hand!”  Now, this went against every fiber of my germaphobic being (Hello! Pigeons are nasty, disease carrying creatures!  They’re the rats of the air!), but hey, when in Barcelona…

So we did it.  We put the bird seed in our hand and held it out and THEY LANDED ON US!!  I couldn’t help but scream a little when they first touched me because it was the weirdest feeling!  Their little toes felt so bizarre and they were heavier than expected!  It was so funny and strange and we loved every second of it.  The best part?  We didn’t even get pooped on! Lol!

Before long, we had to catch the train to get back to Madrid.  Elaine took an early flight back home the following day, and while it was sad to say goodbye, I’m so happy she came!  I had been in need of a little piece of home for awhile now; despite having friends here, I’d been feeling pretty lonely and missing my family and friends from back in the US.  So, Elaine was the perfect remedy and an amazing guest and travel partner, so I’m so thankful she was able to come!  Love you, Elaine!




Let’s talk about Trinity…

Oh, wait!  That’s not an Ed Sheeran lyric!  My bad!  But really, I do have to talk about Trinity for a minute.  After months of agonizing preparation, countless hours practicing the same conversation topics again and again, and numerous times when I wanted to bang my head on the floor because the kids couldn’t remember important information about their topics, the Trinity exam is finally over!  On Monday and Tuesday, our 3rd graders presented their topics one by one to the examiner.  All the while, Anahí, Lauren, and I were trying to keep the kids from being nervous (with Lucky Pocket Puffballs) and remind them to ASK 2 QUESTIONS!!!  Well, the results came back this week, and 34 of 45 of our kiddos passed the exam!!!  Considering this is an exam intended for 4th graders, we were thrilled!  We were very proud of them and their hard work they put into it, but also proud of ourselves for keeping our sanity the entire time, lol!  Now the rest of the school year can be focused on fun English things!

…and this heat wave.

All of a sudden, the weather decided to change from nice and beautiful mid-70s to 90 degrees!  And, considering that for some unimaginable reason the heat was still turned on at our school and we don’t have air conditioning, we were dying this week.  Everyone, teachers and students alike, was sweating and complaining about the heat.  Some teachers brought in spray bottles to squirt the kids to cool them down, and sometimes we just had to go outside or into the hallway to escape the heat.  It’s been miserable!  The lack of AC in our flat was also getting to Lauren and I, so we each invested 25 euros in fans. Terrance (named for turbulence) and Lucinda (named for wind) have been life-savers this week!

Well, looks like May is coming to a close.  I only have about a month and a half left of my time in Spain.  What is this madness??  Wishing everyone a happy Memorial Day weekend and an early Happy 21st Birthday to Kourtney!  XOXO.

When Your Flatmate Turns 21…

…It’s a pretty big deal.  And that’s why I just spent the weekend in England at Lauren’s house to celebrate 21 years of awesomeness with her family and friends.

It started early morning on Friday.  I took a 45 minute bus, a 40 minute metro, waited at the airport for 2 hours, a 2 hour and 15 minute flight to Manchester, a realization that my plane landed at 12:20 but I had bought my train ticket for 11:30 (rookie mistake), and a 2 hour train ride to Leeds where Lauren and her mom picked me up and we made the 20 minute drive to Wakefield.  Phew.

And what better way to start the weekend than to beautify ourselves by getting our eyebrows done?  So Lauren and I went to the woman she and her mom had been going to for awhile and I began sweating immediately.  Let’s just say my eyebrow pain tolerance is incredibly low, so when I found out she would be threading them? Cue freak out.  My only experience with threading was earlier in the week when Lauren and I went to get pedicures in VdlC and they threaded our toe hairs 😂.  And if my little toe hairs could barely handle the pain, I couldn’t imagine what my baby eyebrows would think.  Well, the baby eyebrows didn’t like it either.  After some threading, waxing, and plucking (geesh, was I growing a forest up there??), I looked in the mirror and…


My eyebrows were BLACK.  The woman had colored them in, and since my eyebrows are normally very light blonde, the sheer contrast was intense.  The color, paired with the shape, made me look angry AF.  I had a minor panic moment, but after a couple days they have lightened a bit, and I have to say, it’s nice having 2 eyebrows of the same color now.

After that, I got to experience my first English pub with Lauren, her parents, and her aunt.  But then, something even more iconic: I tried my first fish and chips!  The fam taught me about all the sauces and whatnot that you can put on the fish and chips: curry sauce, salt and vinegar, brown sauce, red sauce (ketchup), and pea sauce, which I learned the hard way isn’t called pea sauce but rather “mushy peas.”  Who knew?  But it was delicious!  Later that night, we went and picked up Lauren’s friend, Jack, from the airport.  Lauren and I even made a welcome sign for him based on one of our favorite Spanish songs here!


Then, Saturday was the big day!  We all slept in and then went on a walk with Lauren’s aunt’s neighbor’s dog.  In the evening we all got ready and then people started coming over for some drinks before dinner!  Several people came to surprise Lauren, which was really sweet.  Among some of the cool people I met were Lauren’s friends Patrick, Charlotte, Charlie, and Chris.  They were people I’d heard so much about but hadn’t met yet, so it was great to finally get a chance to spend time with some of the important people in Lauren’s life.  When drinks were finished, Lauren’s parents rented a bus to take everyone over to dinner which was at a place called 3 Acres.  It. Was. INCREDIBLE.  We had our own private room and had a 3 course dinner…what’s better than that?!  I got pea risotto, then chicken and mashed potatoes, and finally some amazing banana bread, which Chris couldn’t finish, so I graciously ate the rest of his too 😂.  Lauren’s dad made a really sweet speech, and overall it was just a really good time talking, laughing, and of course, eating.

Course 1

Course 2

Unfortunately, the food had to run out at some point, so the bus took Lauren, me, Jack, Patrick, Chris, and Charlie to Leeds to go out for the night.  We started at Viaduct, which was a really cool gay bar!  Then we made our way over to Rev’s, where they have a bunch of different flavors of vodka, including black cherry, bubble gum, watermelon, peanut butter and jelly, and birthday cake to name a few.  We also got kicked out because Charlie was so tired that she fell asleep on one of the couches upstairs and the bouncer thought she was drunk and made us take her outside 😂.  When the rain started, it was our cue to leave, so Lauren, Jack, and I got an Uber to McDonald’s (to which Lauren’s mom would eventually say, “We had that amazing 3 course meal and then you went and got McDonald’s?!”).  Turns out English McDonald’s have banana milkshakes and I of course couldn’t pass up that opportunity.  We finally made it home and were in bed by around 5:30 am and we slept until about noon because the next big event was happening that day!

As if a 3 course meal wasn’t enough for the weekend, Lauren’s parents hosted a cookout at their house on Sunday.  More people came over to celebrate Lauren, and we ate all kinds of things (shout out to Cate for the bomb.com food and to Patrick for the amazing burgers and sausages!).  We were even lucky enough to have good weather, so we were able to stay outside the whole time!

Before long, everyone had gone and the busy weekend came to an end.  I packed up and decided to get a couple hours of sleep before Patrick took me to the Leeds train station at 1:15 am to begin my journey home.  By the time I was back home it, was 12:30 pm Madrid time, and I’m wiped!  Lauren will be back in a few hours and it’s back to school tomorrow.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Lauren, Cate, and Patrick for welcoming me into their home this weekend.  It was an honor to help celebrate Lauren’s birthday, and it was so nice to have a home away from home since I haven’t been home since the beginning of January (I even accidentally called Cate “mom” while I was there 😂).

In other news…
-Last weekend, Minorka, Sofía, Nicole, and her roomie Christy went to Casa del Campo, a giant park in Madrid, to go to the Parque de Atracciones.  It was a neat little theme park with a couple roller coasters and other rides.  It was really fun, but we realized we were way too old because we were all feeling dizzy and nauseous after the rides.

-Mother’s day was yesterday and I was really sad not being able to help celebrate with my mama and grandma and aunt and everyone, but HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to all the mothers out there who have one of the most difficult jobs in the world – thank you for all you do!

-Also, ELAINE COMES TOMORROW!!!  I’m meeting up with her after school, and I can’t wait to spend the week with her in Madrid and Barcelona!  Stay tuned for that!

Basque-ing in the Rain and Pintxos.

Another puente (long weekend), Spain?  You sly dog.  Just when I thought I could start saving up some money to replenish my bank account after the fund-sucking Semana Santa trip, you go and give us extra days to travel and spend more money.

Who am I kidding?  THANK YOU, SPAIN!

San Sebastián and Bilbao had been on my Spain Must See list for awhile, so what better time than a puente to check them out?  Minorka, Sofía, y yo took a 5 and a half hour bus last Friday night and reached Bilbao close to midnight.  Our AirBnB host, Ana, was so kind and welcomed us at the metro station.  In the morning, she even gave us breakfast, and we headed off to explore!

First on the list: the Guggenheim!  This architecture of the museum was incredibly impressive!  I’m not even going to try to describe it because it won’t do it justice (curvy? metallic? cool?), so instead I’ll just add a couple photos and you can see for yourself.  But even the art inside was awesome to look at, and we enjoyed the couple hours we spent wandering around inside.


But nothing works up a hunger like trying to analyze bizarre paintings, so before long we left in search of food.  And while in the Basque Country, you wouldn’t dare eating anything other than pintxos, so that’s what we did.  A little info about pintxos: they are basically tapas, but all the food is placed on a piece of bread and held there with a little pintxo, or stick.  In pintxo bars, there are plates upon plates of these delicious little guys, and usually they just hand you a plate and you get to choose which ones you want to eat.  It’s pretty amazing.  And our first pintxo experience was delightful: I had one with some grilled zucchini and ratatouille, and another with potato, chorizo, and a fried quail egg.  Afterwords, we hung out and enjoyed the sun in the park, checked out the Old Town (Casco Viejo) and Plaza Nueva, and then later hit up some more pintxo bars, where we ate and ate and ate.  And also tried txakoli, a white wine from the region.


The next morning, we said goodbye to Ana and went to see the Vizcaya Bridge, or Puente Colgante, which is the world’s oldest transporter bridge and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.  We also looked longingly at the beach but couldn’t enjoy it, considering it started to rain.

Before long, we had to catch our bus to our next location (which was 40 minutes late), and the next thing we knew, we were in San Sebastián.  After meeting up with Minorka’s friend Elizabeth in our hostel and Carolina a little later, we decided to hit the town.  Only the city didn’t seem to think that was such a great idea because it started pouring down rain.  Despite the rain jackets and hoods and umbrellas we had, the strong winds blew the rain everywhere and we were soaked from head to toe.  Paired with the cold?  It was miserable!  But to warm up, we decided to go to a bakery where I ate some sacher, a chocolate cake.  Then, you guessed it: we ate more pintxos!  We went to some really cool places, such as Borda Berri, where I had the most delicious risotto.  We also tried carrillera de ternera, aka beef cheek, and it was repulsive.  But hey, it’s always good to try new things, right?  That night, we went to a little bar and danced and enjoyed the music before heading back to the hostel.



On Monday morning, we wandered around for the longest time trying to find breakfast (everywhere was closed due to the labor holiday), but then we took advantage of the temporarily sunny skies to walk along the beachfront and take the cable car up to Monte Igueldo to check out the little amusement park there!  We rode a little boat ride and a surprisingly fun roller coaster, and we even took in the gorgeous views of Playa de la Concha.  Then, after a little hike down the mountain, we saw the Peine del Viento sculptures on the rocks of the beach.

And then?


Some new ones I tried: fried zucchini and goat cheese, angulas (baby eels) with fried quail egg, a fried spicy meatball, and a mini cheeseburger with a bright red bun.  Notice a trend that all the pintxos have something fried on them?? Later that night, we decided to get really adventurous and play Pintxo Secret Santa!  We each wrote our name on a napkin and wrote our deal-breakers (no anchovies, no morcilla, etc.).  We each drew a name and had to secretly select a pintxo the other person had to try.  After we all selected them, we sat down and had to guess which one was ours.  It was a lot of fun!


Before too long, our puente was over and we had to take the long bus back to Madrid.  And despite probably gaining 5 pounds, it was a great trip.

The other weekend, Lauren and I had quite the adventure!  We headed into Madrid for the sole purpose of getting our cartilage pierced, because what better souvenir from our time in this country than a permanent hole in our ear?!  But we read some reviews online and chose a tattoo shop (Por Vida, if anyone is interested), said YOLO, and did it.  I’ll be honest, it was quite creepy in that tattoo shop (I’m talking some intense face and neck tattoos on the employees, not to mention the various pictures of pierced genitalia on the walls…).  But before we knew it, Lauren and I both had 2 new holes in our ears and to this day we’re still complaining about the pain.

After than we also went to a restaurant called Jack Percoca where we had some amazing truffle mac n’ cheese (the only reason we went there), and then we explored the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid, which are the botanical gardens.  The flowers were so beautiful, and the cacti were my favorite part!  It was a lot of fun hanging with my roomie.




The other latest news in Kasey’s Spanish Life?  The never ending Trinity Exam prep.  At the end of May, my 3rd graders have to take the Trinity English speaking exam, so lately we’ve been working to prepare them for their 5 minute presentation on the topic of their choice.  For the past few weeks, I’ve been working with the kids in small groups to help them map out their presentation to include information in the past tense, present tense, future tense, and comparatives.  It’s been incredibly stressful since many of the kids don’t have the level of English the exam demands, but I’ve been proud of them for making progress in their speaking abilities.

Well, I think that’s about it for this edition.  Upcoming events include going to England for Lauren’s birthday, Elaine coming to visit and our trip to Barcelona, and the trip to Dublin in June.  Lots to look forward to, but incredibly sad that it’s coming to a close so quickly!

Semana Santa Shenanigans 2K17.

Ah, Semana Santa…better known as Holy Week, but even better known as spring break.  One week without school or private lessons.  One week of freedom to do whatever we want.  So what did we decide to do?

Spend our entire life savings.

Okay, not really (I promise, dad!).  But we did decide to travel, to not one, not two, but 7 different cities.  I can’t promise you won’t be bored while reading this, but I can promise it will be long AF, so I will add in some comedic relief in the form of jokes between sections.  Here goes:

City #1: Sevilla, Spain
We got Friday (4/07) off of school, and since Sevilla is known for having some dope Semana Santa celebrations (say that 5 times fast), Sam and I decided to start our journey there.  We took the AVE train there, which was absolutely incredible.  We went over 165 mph and it only took a couple hours to get there!  Upon arrival, we decided to check off the most important reason for the trip: the Alcázar, which is a palace.  We hoped in a cab and told the driver where we wanted to go, to which he responded, “Huh?”.  We repeated, but he still wasn’t sure.  Then finally he said, “Ahh, el Alcázar!” and began driving.  Turns out, Sam and I had been putting the stress on the first syllable rather than the middle A, and apparently that makes alllll the difference.  But we finally got there, and it was freaking beautiful! The weather was perfect, so we enjoyed ourselves as we wandered around the rooms and the gardens, wishing that we could be royal so we could live there.  We even saw some of the rooms and areas used as locations for Dorne in Game of Thrones, which was pretty amazing.  We later checked into our AirBnb and then were able to see one of the Semana Santa processions of one of the brotherhoods.

Which turned out to be terrifying.

There we were, surrounded by the mass of people all trying to see the same procession as us.  We could feel the excitement as everyone had their cameras out and were pushing each other for the best viewing points.  But suddenly all was silent as the procession left the cathedral and came into view.  There, heading right towards us, was a line of men cloaked in purple robes.  But these weren’t just any purple robes.  No, these robes looked exactly like a purple KKK costume, or perhaps a purple dementor from Harry Potter.  The giant hoods were pointy and covered the faces of the men.  Those carrying candles had the hoods up in the air and those carrying crosses had their hoods down, making them look like executioners.  Apparently, these hoods (called capirotes) have a long history, but today essentially represent the idea of penance during Easter season.  Along with these cloaked men, there were children passing out candy (weird combo if you ask me), as well as a giant shrine (?) to Jesus where the people carrying it stood underneath and couldn’t see a thing.  Instead, they had to listen to the commands of their “guides.”  It was very strange, but really interesting at the same time!

The next day, Sam and I saw the cathedral and climbed one of the towers to get a view of the city.  We also went to Plaza de España, which was incredible!  There were even some scenes from Star Wars (episodes I and II I believe) that were filmed here!  It was so pretty, but before long, we had to head back to begin the next leg of our journey.








Joke #1: Q: What does a nosy pepper do?
A: It gets jalapeño business!

City #2: Madrid, Spain
Okay okay, so you might say this one doesn’t count.  But we slept here, so I say it does.

Joke #2: Q: Can a kangaroo jump higher than the Empire State Building?
A: Of course! The Empire State Building can’t jump.

City #3: Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
You know what’s fun? Waking up before the sun rises.  You know who’s being sarcastic? Me.  That’s right folks, our cab arrived at 5:30 am to take us to the airport to begin the next leg of the trip.  When we arrived in Luxembourg City after a sleepy flight, we were surprised about how beautiful the city was!  None of us had any expectations, but by the end we decided it was a city that was enchanting and charming.  It reminded us of a city where a fairy tale would take place!  The first thing we did, of course, was eat!  We went to a little cafe where Minorka asked the server what the national language of Luxembourg was.  “It’s Luxembourgish!” he said defensively.  “It’s not German, not French, it’s Luxembourgish!”  Well geesh, dude. We were just asking.

After lunch, we took a walking tour offered by the tourism office.  One of the employees was incredibly friendly and let us keep our giant backpacks there so we didn’t have to haul them around the city.  Our tour guide was really nerdy cute and taught us a lot about the country and city.  For example, we learned that about 500,000 people live in the country, but only about half are actually citizens of Luxembourg.  We also learned that while Luxembourgish is the national language, it’s basically only a spoken language.  Instead, French and German are the written languages. After the tour, we walked around and explored the pretty city before it was time to take our next flight.


Joke #3: Q: What starts with E, ends with E, and only has one letter in it?
A: Envelope.

City #4: London, England
We landed at Stansted Aiport late at night, then took a 45 minute train into the city, then took a 30 minute cab (the cool London cabs!) to the hostel.  By the time we had checked in, showered, and gotten into bed, it was past 2 in the morning!  But even though we were tired the next morning, we were so excited to explore London.  We started the day with breakfast in the hostel – it was only 1 pound, which went to charity!  Of course, we were really confused by the money, for a minute I thought we had only donated 1 pence, but then we realized we had donated 1 pound, so it was all good.  We left our bags in the hostel and then headed out to see the sites!

First up on the list: the parliament building!  We took some pics, then went and checked out Big Ben.  He was pretty cool.  We looked at the London Eye too, but decided against riding in it.  After that, we headed over to Buckingham Palace to see the change of the guards.  We walked past a beautiful park, and when we finally got to the palace, there were colorful tulips everywhere!  It was amazing!  We got some pictures and videos of the guards walking by (they were so intense!), and then we took the Tube to London Bridge to meet up with my roommate, Lauren, and her friend Jack!  They showed us London Bridge, Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London.  It was cool having some local guides show us around – they even made up some fake facts for us when they didn’t have answers to our questions, lol!

And then?  Over to Camden Market, aka the best part of the day!  I’ll tell you what, first impressions aren’t always what they seem.  As we were walking down the street to get the food part of the market, all we saw were streets lined with shops selling all kinds of gothic/emo attire.  We saw so many black clothing items and chains and spikes and I was like dear goodness Lauren, where have you taken us?!  Luckily, before long, we arrived at the food area and it was so cute!!  It was very hipster, contained within a brick courtyard type thing, and it was right next to this little river thingy.  There was So. Much. Food!  Pastries and pasta and pizza and burgers and fries and tacos and it went on and on!  I got some amazing macaroni and cheese with pesto and mozzarella, and Lauren, Jack, and I split some mini Dutch pancakes covered in Nutella.  We were stuffed afterwards!  I think I could have eaten there all day, but instead we headed to Wetherspoons, a nearby bar, where I tried some delicious Strongbow Dark Fruits cider.  OMG.  I wish the US could be so cool and have that.  It was delicious.

Before long, we had to say goodbye to Lauren and Jack and head to Heathrow to take our next flight.  We took an Uber there, and I have to say, it was the weirdest Uber ride I’ve ever had in my life.  For some reason I can’t remember, the driver was trying to get me to open the glove compartment because he said he had a surprise for us.  I was like, uh, no, that’s okay (hello, in every kidnapping movie ever, the driver has a gun in his glove compartment).  I joked that he probably had a snake in there and I didn’t want to risk it because I didn’t want to get bitten and die.  He said no, the snake would bite me and then it would die.  I pretended to be offended that my blood was toxic, and he responded with the fact that he had never seen blood because he didn’t have any, but we must see a lot of blood in Spain???  He then told us that plants also have blood, but it’s actually white blood, not red.  We were like, WTF?!  He then asked why Sofía wasn’t talking, so he said she should put a bag on her head, or that he should put a bag on his head.  It was absolutely bizarre, but entertaining to say the least.

We finally made it to the airport (sans snake bites), and went through security, where I had to wait 20 minutes for my bag to be checked, only to have them find nothing.  I was ticked, but what are you gonna do?  Our flight went smoothly, and before long, we were in City #5.  But overall, I was really captivated by London!  It was beautiful and reminded me more of home than other places (could be the language?), so I really enjoyed my time there.



Joke #4: If you ever get cold, just stand in the corner of the room for awhile.  They’re usually around 90 degrees.


City #5: Copenhagen, Denmark
It was another late night, but when we finally arrived in Copenhagen, we were struck by just how cold it was!  We tried to buy a ticket for the metro to get to our AirBnb, but the stupid machine didn’t give me change, so I essentially paid for two tickets and only got one.  And of course, since it was so late, there was nobody even around the airport to ask for help!  But after taking the metro, we walked for about 15 minutes through the dark, cold streets and arrived at our AirBnb around midnight.  Our host was there waiting for us and was really nice as he showed us around the place.  He even left us a bottle of wine and some other drinks!  After he left, we passed out in preparation for the next day.

We started the next day with breakfast at a little cafe with a very friendly employee.  We asked him how to pronounce some of the letters in Danish, such as Ø, and he happily taught us how to say them.  After fueling up, we headed to the main square in town for our walking tour!  Our tour guide, Rosie, was a very energetic woman from London who had been living in Denmark the last 6 years with her boyfriend.  We walked around the city and she told us all about the history, especially about all the fires and how everything in Copenhagen has burnt down at least once.  We saw Nyhavn (the famous colorful houses), the opera house (where people jump off the roof and into the water in the summer), where Hans Christian Anderson lived, and learned about the Green Light district, aka the street where they sell a bunch of weed.  Rosie warned us not to take pictures there or start running down the street, or the people there will think the cops are coming!  She also taught us some important Danish words: (hello=hej, goodbye=hej hej, shark=haj, thank you=tak, orange=appelsin [their version of “cheese” when taking pictures], cheers=skål, and the feeling of comfort and happiness=hygge).

After the tour, we made our way to see The Second Most Disappointing Landmark in Europe, aka the Little Mermaid statue.  Apparently it’s disappointing because it’s not as big as people expect, but Rosie also told us how over the years, people have chopped off her head, arms, etc.  How morbid.  But the statue was actually pretty cool despite everyone saying how disappointing it is.  After that, we went to Paper Island where they have an indoor food market (are you sensing a them here?) where we stuffed our faces.  Minorka and I split a smørrebrød, which is an open sandwich typical in Copenhagen.  It was nothing special in our opinion, so we also split some duck meat fries and some pad Thai!  I then got a rhubarb cake that was absolutely scrumptious.  Needless to say, none of us could move after this.

But eventually, we had to leave and head over to Tivoli Gardens, aka this little amusement park/garden place.  It was freezing cold and we were dying, but we walked around and avoided the rides because let’s be real, we didn’t need any more wind in our faces!  It was pretty!  We watched this bizarre silent play, checked out the different areas with beautiful fountains and lights and whatnot, and even bought these weird marshmallow things from a really friendly Danish guy because he talked to us for awhile and we felt bad not buying anything.  Fun fact: basically all the Danish people we talked to were really friendly and also super attractive.

That night we got really hungry back at the AirBnb, so we tried ordering pizza.  It was really hard to find places that were open, but we also needed one where you could order online because it’s expensive to make calls on our phones when we’re in different countries.  Luckily, we finally found one and even had our entire order picked out.  Unfortunately, the online system would only accept 8 digit phone numbers, which we didn’t have, so we had to abandon the pizza idea and settle for a granola bar, which Sofía compared to bird food.  Then, after sleeping for about 3 and a half hours, we woke up for our 7:00 am flight.



Joke #5: Q: Why can’t you trust an atom?
A: Because they make up everything.

City #6: Dubrovnik, Croatia
In the morning, we missed our metro and had a heck of a time trying to check in, but we finally boarded our flight for Dubrovnik.  Well, technically, we flew to Frankfurt, Germany and then to Dubrovnik, but we never left the airport, so it doesn’t count.  But when we flew over Croatia, I’m not kidding, I nearly started crying because it was so beautiful.  I don’t think I’d ever seen such blue water before!  I was in utter awe.

When we landed, we took a bus to Old Town and got lunch in this cute little restaurant that had turtles crawling around in the plants!  We then took an Uber to our AirBnb, checked in, and headed back to Old Town to explore.  We decided to first walk the walls, which was the coolest thing!  It took us a little over an hour to walk around the walls overlooking Old Town, and we got some amazing pictures. We also saw a bunch of cats running around; they were so cute! Next up was dinner…we decided to eat at a Mexican/Italian combo restaurant where we had a very friendly waiter who gave us free tequila shots!  He also taught us the Croatian word for cheers (Živjeli), but told us to be very careful when saying it, because a slight change of the vowel sound changed the word to mean sex!  After dinner, we went to a cool balcony bar overlooking the water where we got some cool views of the moon shining on the water.  Apparently, this bar was used as a changing room in Game of Thrones!  Then, exhausted, we tried to get an Uber back to our place, but there weren’t any around.  Instead, we had to trek uphill for 30 minutes.  When we finally arrived, we passed out.

In the morning, Sam and I got up early because we had a private Game of Thrones tour at 8:30 am!  We met our guide, Tom, at Pile Gate, the entrance to Old Town, and started the tour at the St. Lawrence fortress.  Tom showed us several filming locations from the show, and we even met his sister, who was an extra on the show!  We went back to Old Town and he took us through the streets to show us where various scenes were shot.  We even got to walk down the stairs for the Walk of Shame!  Plus, Tom took us to a hostel where Peter Dinklage passed out drunk once!  Some other interesting things we learned:

  • The Red Keep doesn’t actually exist…it’s pretty much all CGI!
  • The producers make King’s Landing look a lot bigger by using CGI to fill in the area between Old Town and the nearby island with houses.
  • During Joffrey’s wedding, white pigeons flew out of the cake.  Because the scene was filmed multiple times and they couldn’t catch the pigeons, they are still around the city.  There are also speckled pigeons in the city, which are the offspring of a white and normal pigeon.
  • Dubronik let’s HBO film for free at most locations because it brings in a lot of tourism to the city.  However, if the show has to use a business or someone’s home, HBO compensates them to make up for inconveniences.
  • Apparently, to make the costumes more authentic for the time period, they are never washed!

We finished the tour on Lokrum Island, which was a quick 15 minute ferry ride away and was the location for the filming of Qarth.  Our tour guide left us there to hang out, so we spent some time wandering around, eating lunch, and admiring the beautiful peacocks flaunting their feathers (it was mating season).  There were also rabbits that would come eat out of your hand!

Sam and I left the island when Minorka and Sofía arrived because we wanted to ride the cable car up the mountain to see the view of the city and check out the old fort that was turned into a museum.  It was pretty neat!  After that, we all met up for dinner at a pizza place and finished the night at a wine bar.  It was a lot of fun!



The Walk of Shame



Joke #6: Q: Why did the fish blush?
A: Because it saw the ocean’s bottom!

City #7: Barcelona, Spain
Because the times for the buses from city center to the airport were so inconvenient, we had to take the 5:30 am bus for our 9:00 am flight!  We were all exhausted and passed out at the airport (after eating the most delicious chocolate twist pastry!).  But before long, we boarded our flight to Barcelona.  We had every intention of grabbing lunch somewhere before Sam and I caught our train back to Madrid and Minorka and Sofía set off for Santander, but our plans were foiled when we had to wait in line for 2 hours to get our passport checked and stamped!  It was miserable, so Sam and I settled for grabbing McDonald’s quickly to eat on the train.  By the time we made it home, we were ready to never see another plane/train/bus again!

The trip was absolutely incredible; we saw the most amazing places, learned some really interesting things, and got to spend some quality time together.  I’m so thankful for my friends and the fact that I was able to travel this past week.  I’m so sad it’s over, but I’m so ready for my next trip!

Some Other Things…
1. A couple weeks ago, my co-teacher, Anahí, had all the teachers over after school.  She made fabada, which is a really delicious bean dish from Asturias, the region in Spain where she’s from.  We got to meet her new puppy, Max!  He’s so cute!  But I feel so lucky that all the teachers are so close and we all hang out.  It’s a lot of fun.

2. The other weekend, my friend Nicole and I hung out.  We went to Andén 0, an old metro station that is no longer in use and is now a museum.  It was cool to see how the old metro worked!  We also went to Papi’s Bagels, a little restaurant in Mercado San Antón.  They were so delicious, and I was glad I got to spend some time with her!



Old fashioned turnstiles…your weight on the platform made the gate open!


3. There was a day where I went to Primark, aka my favorite clothing store here.  When I went to check out, the guy said hola to me, and I responded.  He then said, “Twenty euros, digo, veinte euros.”  He thought I was Spanish so he switched from English to Spanish!  I’m sure that will be the first and only time that happens, lol!

4. Yesterday for Easter, I went with Sam to the Catedral de la Almudena for church!  It was cool getting to see a mass in Spanish, but I almost passed out from the heat!  We met some of her friends for brunch at The Toast too.

Okay, my apologies for the crazy long post!  I hope everyone had a great Easter and got to spend time with family and friends.  Enjoy the great weather!

To My Family Who Visited Me in Spain,

Dear Grandma, Grandpa, and Kourtney,

I can’t start this post with anything other than thank you.  This past week you’ve spent in Madrid with me has meant so much.  After nearly 3 months without seeing anyone from home, you were the perfect remedy.  I loved getting to show you around and watch you marvel at the beautiful sights and the delicious food.  It reminded me that it’s okay to still be a tourist where I live; it caused me to look at things I’d seen many times with the eyes of someone seeing things for the first time.

Dear Grandma and Grandpa,

It’s amazing that you would even consider flying halfway across the world to Spain, let alone actually do it.  Not many people can say their grandparents are still world travelers, but I am so fortunate that you are.  Thank you for leaving the comfort of your home, town, and language to experience Madrid.  Thank you for putting up with with me forcing you to walk and take the Metro everywhere.  Trust me, it was the best solution to all the delicious food we ate.  Speaking of which, I was so relieved that you enjoyed every last thing we ate.  I’m thankful that you trusted me to be your “food tour guide” and take you to all the delicious places I’ve discovered/heard about.

Dear Grandma,

Thank you for having such a positive attitude about everything.  I know it can be difficult and stressful being in an unfamiliar place where they speak an unfamiliar language, but you took it all in stride.  I thought it was humorous how much you loved the tiny town I live in, but you reminded me that it is really neat and I should be thankful to live here.  Thank you for planning the entire trip in the first place and being so organized.  I am so lucky that you came and I got to spend so much time with you.

Dear Grandpa,

Thank you for being your silly, outgoing self.  After living here for nearly 7 months, I have never had as much fun with servers and bartenders in Spain as I did when you were around.  Thanks for finding the coolest rooftop bar (never would have been there without you), and thanks for being up for anything.  I’m glad you had the best beer/margarita/pizza/etc. you’ve ever had.  Oh, and sorry that it snowed when I essentially promised you it wouldn’t.

Dear Kourtney,

I was so thrilled to spend time in Madrid with you.  Thank you for stepping up as tour guide/translator when I wasn’t around.  I knew I didn’t have to worry about grandma and grandpa when they were with you.  Thanks for essentially repeating your high school trip, right down to staying in the same hotel, so I could see you.  I’ll never forget the shopping, 3 liters of Leche de Pantera we drank, or the talkative walk back to the hotel at 2:30 am.  I’m even more excited to go backpacking with you now.

Dear Grandma, Grandpa, and Kourtney,

Waking up in the hotel alone on Saturday was agonizing.  I felt so homesick that you left, but I think back to all the places we went, things we did, and food we ate, and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.  The week flew by so fast, but the memories we made will stay with me.  Thank you for everything, and see you in July!






Grandma eating churros at San Gines!




Boating in Retiro Park




Las Fallas de Valencia: The Weekend I Became a Pyromaniac

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Kasey who was in a Spanish class at Purdue.  One day she had to do a project about Las Fallas de Valencia and present it to her entire class.  After researching this enormous festival and doing the presentation, she was so enthralled that she vowed she would one day see the Fallas in person.  This is that story…

Last weekend, Lauren and I traveled to Valencia for Las Fallas, a giant festival held there every March to welcome the change of seasons and to honor Saint Joseph.  It was more incredible than I ever could have imagined!

On Friday, we boarded our bus to begin the 4.5 hour journey.  We were so excited; we had everything booked since January and were looking forward to taking  part in the celebrations.  However, all our excitement was dashed when I texted our AirBnb host to let him know what time we’d be arriving.  “I’m happy you’re coming to Valencia,” he said, “But I didn’t know you were staying at my place.”


Though I had continually gotten emails from AirBnb saying the place was confirmed, he claimed he had never been notified about it.  I immediately went into panic mode.  With thousands of people flocking to Valencia for the weekend, nearly everything (hostels, hotels, and AirBnbs) was booked, and whatever was left was insanely expensive.  Lauren looked over at my messages and I just told her, “Don’t look,” because I had to figure something out.  No use in two people worrying!

So, while en route to Valencia, I had to call AirBnb, who were very accommodating and helpful.  In the meantime, while they were trying to figure out how to reimburse me, I had to scramble to find a new place.  I checked the hostel prices and saw it would be way too expensive so I tried AirBnb again.  And suddenly I heard a chorus of angels as a room appeared on the app, hosted by 3 girls living right in the center of all the action.  I was wary because they had no reviews, but desperate times call for desperate measures and I booked the place.  It turned out to be the best decision ever; our hosts were the sweetest girls ever!  They had just decided to open up the room that day and had never hosted before, but they were so accommodating.  They met us at the tourist center to show us how to get through the crowds and find the apartment and gave us all kinds of helpful suggestions.  Their place was so clean too, and they were very friendly.  We were so thankful for them and their place, and were of course relieved to have a place to lay our heads at night!

Our first impression of Valencia?  It was beautiful, but it was so loud.  Because of the Fallas, there were so many people.  The crowds were insane and it was nearly impossible to get around.  Plus, people were setting off firecrackers every 5 minutes which made us jump every time.  And, there was a constant procession of parades going around and of course, it was right outside our room, so we heard everything.  It was crazy!

That first evening, Lauren and I went to the Fallas museum to check out the ninots that had been pardoned from the burning each year since the 1930s.  We then walked around outside near the giant aquarium and checked out the gorgeous architecture in the area.  We finished the night with dinner; I really wanted to order the paella, a rice dish typical of the area, but they said they could only make it for two people and Lauren isn’t a fan.  I decided I would order it later on in our trip, but you will soon find out the fiasco that was…


The 1994 pardoned ninot.


On our way back to our apartment, we checked out La Ofrenda, which is where all the people from the fallas associations brought flowers for the Virgin and put them in the wooden frame of the giant statue to make her robes.  It was so beautiful and impressive; there were people who climbed halfway up the frame and people on the ground who were throwing flowers up to them to place them. This went on for 2 days until about 2 in the morning! Surprisingly, we were able to sleep well, despite the loud noises all around us.

On Saturday, we started the morning with a fallas tour to learn more about the festival. It was really interesting to learn about the traditions and some fun facts as we walked around checking out some of the fallas in the neighborhoods. Some things we learned:

  • There were 381 fallas associations that built fallas this year!
  • Each association raises money throughout the year with dinners etc. to build the fallas.  Plus, each member has to pay an association fee.
  • The fallas are separated into different groups based on how much they cost so they can win different awards.  The limit is 200,000 euros, but before that, there was a falla that cost 900,000 euros!
  • The fallas are generally made of Styrofoam nowadays.
  • The builders used to learn the trade of designing/building fallas from their fathers and it was passed down, but now the university in Valencia even has a degree where you can learn it.
  • Each association has a Fallera Mayor, which is basically the pageant queen of the association.  The Falleras Mayores of each association then compete to become the Fallera Mayor of the entire festival.  These women wear a traditional Valencian dress for this festival, including a dress, apron, and veil.  They even have their hair twisted into an elaborate design (rodetes), which we learned was only half real; throughout the year, when a girl got her hair cut, the hairdresser would save the cut hair and then create the design for the girl to attach to her head for the Fallas!

It was all very interesting to learn about!  When the tour concluded, we got some gelato and made our way to the Plaza de Ayuntamiento to watch the Mascletà!  This is a tradition that occurs every day of the festival at 2:00 pm where a bunch of firecrackers are let off.  It should have some kind of rhythm, and we learned that if it’s good, everyone claps at the end.  If not, everyone is silent!  There were so many people that we couldn’t get that close to the Plaza and instead were packed among the other spectators, but we could still hear the booms perfectly.  And everyone clapped at the end!  It was really neat!


Another falla

Lauren and I had some pasta for lunch and then headed over to the Bioparc, which was a really big zoo.  It was amazing!  The animals were in big, wide enclosures and you could get really close to them!  Some of the animals we saw were giraffes, elephants, lions, chimps, alligators, and so many more.


When we left, we decided to go paddle boating in the little pond near the Bioparc just for the heck of it.  We rode in a duck boat and paddled around at sunset (how romantic) and then headed back to the center of the city for dinner, which quickly became the worst restaurant experience I’ve ever had.
First, we had to wait for forever to get a table (understandable, given the busyness of the festival), and when we finally got a table, it took a long time for a server to come.  We wanted to order mac & cheese but were told they ran out.  So instead I ordered paella, even though it said it was for two people.  I decided I’d just eat half of it and could take the rest home.  Nearly 45 minutes later, the server said they had run out of the paella I had ordered, so would I like the seafood paella?  I really didn’t, but I couldn’t leave Valencia without having paella, so I reluctantly agreed.  Finally we got our food which was mediocre at best.  Then we ordered more drinks and the server said they had ran out of one of the types of juices used, so it was a little different.  Then when we got the bill, they had charged us double for the paella (since it was for 2 people) even though the menu didn’t explain the charge was per person.  We were frustrated that nothing we ordered had been right, so Lauren talked to the server and asked if there was some way he could compensate for all the issues we’d had.  He really couldn’t care less about our problems and nobody the entire night was that apologetic, so the only thing he could do was to give us a free shot, which is often free after meals in Spain anyway.  It was so annoying.  But the night was salvaged when we got to watch the Nit de Foc, aka the biggest firework show of the festival, at 1:30 am.  It looked really cool!

Sunday was the biggest and final day of the festival, so we started it off by relaxing on the Malvarrosa beach. It was too cold to get in the water, but the sun felt nice, so we laid out for a couple hours. We got some delicious pizza for dinner and then went over to one of the plazas early to prepare to watch the main event: la Cremà! We watched people poke holes through the falla in various places and pour lighter fluid all over it, as well as lace it with fireworks.

Then, midnight finally rolled around, and after a quick firework show, the falla was lit, literally and figuratively.  The chain of fireworks sparked and a little flame caught the edge of the falla.  At first, it was pretty unimpressive.  However, within minutes, the flames had grown to incredible heights.  Piece after piece of the falla caught fire, accompanied by gasps from the crowd, until the entire structure was ablaze.  We could feel the heat radiating off it and had to back away and shield our skin because it was so hot.  Yet at the same time, we couldn’t look away.  What was once a beautiful, carefully constructed sculpture was now disintegrating before our eyes, and the ashes were floating down all around us. It was beautiful and horrific at the same time.

Before long, the falla was just a pile of ashes and the firefighters doused it with water to put it out.  Everyone clapped and began to disperse.  We then made our way over to the Plaza de Ayuntamiento to watch the main falla burn at 1:00 am.  This falla was a very tall structure, so even though we again couldn’t get into the actual plaza, we could easily see it burn from a side street.  It started with fireworks coming out the sides and before long, it too was completely on fire.


Burning of the main falla

Words can not even describe just how amazing the entire experience was.  I had waited to see this for so long, and it by far exceeded my expectations.  The way the entire town came together for such a large and well-organized festival mesmerized me, and I lamented at the fact that there is no such festival like it in the US.  I would definitely go back, and if anyone has the opportunity to go, I would not hesitate in recommending it!!!

The next morning, Lauren and I caught the bus back to Madrid, where I got to meet up with my grandparents and sister!  Stay tuned for that post coming soon :).