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!

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!

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 :).

My “Gran” Vacation and a Conglomeration of Other Events.

Happy last day of February, and happy birthday to all you leap year babies out there!  Can you believe this month is almost over?  Well, it just means we’re that much closer to Spring.  Hooray!

I’ve got a long update today, but luckily there are plenty of humorous stories sprinkled in here and there, so hopefully they will get you through.  Well, here goes nothing.

Pajama Day
A couple weeks ago, we celebrated our 100th day of school with Pajama Day!  The kids (and teachers) were so excited.  Everyone wore pajamas (there was quite an assortment), and in many classes, we got to read books and do some fun activities.  I even got to share my favorite children’s book, Dragons Love Tacos with my kiddos and they loved it.  I was also surprised that many of my kids had never tried tacos before (blasphemy!), but we got to learn some new English words, like spicy and mild.  It was a lot of fun, but of course, very exhausting as all special days at school are.😵

Vacation to Gran Canaria
Thank goodness for long weekends, because we needed one after Pajama Day.  So, Selena and I headed off to the Canary Islands for some relaxation!  Everything went without a hitch…until we arrived.  After landing at the airport, we had to take a bus to get to our hostel.  Well not being familiar with the public transportation system there, you can imagine there would be some snafus.  So we’re sitting in the bus, right?  We’re both on our phones trying to figure out we needed to go next, when suddenly we looked up and saw that there was nobody left on the bus.  So we laughed at ourselves for being so unobservant and then grabbed our things to get off…only to realize the driver was also gone and had locked us on the bus. 😅  Crap.  There were people outside laughing at us until finally the bus driver came back to let us off.  Then we had to sprint over to the next bus we had to catch.  What a great first impression we made in Gran Canaria.

But at least the island made a good first impression on us, because the weather was beautiful.  It was sunny and in the 70s, so we took advantage of that and hit the beach right away.  It felt amazing to lay out in the sun and feel the sand between our toes and the waves crashing over our feet, even though it was super cold.  The highlight was the thong-clad self proclaimed “Professional Beach Boy,” aka an older man that was a little too friendly and decided to try to make conversation with us even though we were clearly wanting to be left in peace.  Oh well.  The things you see on the beach.  And of course, even after applying sunscreen multiple times, I still got burnt 😒.



After that, we went back to our hippy dippy hostel to check in. We were sharing a room with these 2 guys, but we didn’t introduce ourselves right away because it sounded like they were speaking another language.  So Selena and I referred to them as “the German guys.”  That is, until about a day later, we made the realization that they had actually been speaking English the whole time and were actually from Glasgow 😂😂😂.  Their accents had been so strong, they didn’t even sound like English.  I think I need to get my ears checked.

That night, we headed to the Mercado del Puerto for dinner because we saw that one of the stalls had fish tacos and strawberry mojitos!  Yum!  So the waiter brings out the fish tacos…but all we see on the plate is chunks of fish, some cabbage salad, and potatoes.  He left and Selena and I looked at each other.  We agreed he must be going back to get the tortillas.  But he came back empty handed.  So then he had to explain to us that fish tacos are just a style of cooking fish there, not tacos like you think about in Mexico.  We were laughing and were a little disappointed in the “false” advertising, but we enjoyed the meal all the same.  We ended the night listening to a Brazilian band play along the beach and got some rest to prepare for the next day’s hike.

We started off the morning with a delicious breakfast and some fresh orange juice, only to find out that Selena’s debit card had gone missing!  We retraced our steps, but to no avail.  Luckily, she remained calm and cancelled her card before anyone could use it.  But then we had to catch 3 buses to get to the starting point of our hike.  We got some incredibly helpful advice from a kind man who worked at the local museum/tourist center (which was in a cave!), and we headed on our way.

The hike was beautiful!  We had perfect weather and enjoyed walking past several different cave neighborhoods and fields and mountains and little bodies of water called presas.  Despite having very specific directions and a map, we constantly felt lost and second guessed ourselves every step of the way.  Once, we almost took a path that lead straight uphill until we decided we had better be completely certain we had to take that path before starting it.  Luckily, we didn’t!  We saved ourselves about an hour of unnecessary climbing because of it!


We made one stop along the way at a little bar called Marcelino’s where we got a beer and some chicken wings.  It was just what we needed to refuel for the continuation of our journey.  So we continued walking…and walking…and walking…oh, and did I mention walking?  Our feet were hurting, our knees were hurting, the clouds were rolling in, and it started sprinkling on us.  Suddenly, this dad with his kids in a stroller came running down a hill with the mom following close behind – the first people we had seen in awhile!  Selena asked them how much farther, and the dad warned us to be careful and stay along the road, because just a week ago, two German girls were hiking and a tree fell and one of them lost a leg!  We thought, Oh crap, what have we gotten ourselves into?  The family said they would take us down the mountain, except with the kids in the car, we wouldn’t fit.  We thanked them anyway and continued walking.  But then, they shoved the kids in the backseat with the dad and told Selena and I to squish in the front.  Woohoo!  The took us partway down the mountain and we thanked them for doing that, because we were exhausted!

After continuing walking for awhile, we came to an abandoned bottle factory, which was so creepy and cool!  There were smashed crates and bottle caps everywhere.  We also passed an abandoned hotel, all in the middle of nowhere!  No wonder they went out of business…  But again, we were tired, so the next time a car came by, we stuck our thumbs out, and luckily a guy stopped for us!  He was exactly who you’d expect to pick up hitchhikers…he was an older dude with a VW van and a dream catcher hanging from his rear-view mirror 😂.  He was very friendly and took us to the bottom of the mountain to the bus stop.  When we were about to get on the bus, these adolescent girls jumped the line, so these 2 Spanish grandmas started yelling at them that Selena and I were at the bus stop first and should therefore get on the bus (guagua) first.  And those rude girls continued on the bus anyway!  Youths these days 😒.

Later that night, we checked out the Carnaval celebrations!  Carnaval is basically a giant party celebrating before the start of Lent, and it is taken very seriously in Spain.  People dress up in costumes and drink and party for about a month, or even more!  In Las Palmas, they had a giant stage where large groups of people sang satirical songs about the government.  There were also a ton of people meandering about in their costumes (lots of men dressed up as sexy nurses) and consuming alcohol and dancing to the music.  Selena and I made it a point to find the coolest costumes and take selfies with those people!  It was hilarious.


The next two days were more beach days to relax our aching muscles from the hike.  We drank lots of sangria and laid out, and I even got a quick massage from a lady wandering around the beach offering them. Hey, treat yoself, am I right??   We even went to this hippy dippy bar where they had people playing live, and it was really neat to see!

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and we had to return back to work the next day.  Bummer.  But overall it was a great time with a great travel partner!

Carnaval at School
So of course, since Carnaval is such a big deal, we had to celebrate at school!  Our school’s theme was Los Opuestos, aka Opposites.  Each grade level had a different set of opposites, such as cops vs. robbers or black chess pieces vs. white chess pieces or villains vs. heroes.  The auxiliares decided to go as jocks vs. geeks, and it was hilarious.  We spent most of the day helping to set up the decorations around the school for when the parents came to see the costume parades.  Plus, we danced around like maniacs in the process, and I even sang “Stacey’s Mom” for karaoke in front of my devoted 6th grade fans 😜.  Some of the 6th graders even challenged me to a dance off, and at the end of the parade, some of the boys asked if they could talk to me via WhatsApp 😂.  I was like, uhh, you’re students and I’m a teacher, so that probably isn’t the best idea.  But hey, I was flattered 😂.

Jocks vs. geeks


Hike #2
Since the weather is finally getting warmer, Nicole, her roommate, and I went on a really cool hike to Las Cascadas del Hervidero.  It was about a 13k walk and it was really pretty, especially the waterfalls we saw at the end.  It was a really great day, until I started feeling like I was about to pass out because…

I spent Saturday night and all day Sunday in bed with a terrible headache, back ache, and sore throat.  I was dizzy and had the chills too.  I figured it was just one of those 24 hour flu bugs, but I woke up Monday morning and felt even worse!  I could barely swallow, and I knew I had to go to the doctor.  Problem was, I didn’t know how. I tried calling one doctor, and they hung up.  Tried calling another, and couldn’t understand the options in Spanish.  Tried calling and English-speaking one in Madrid, but they didn’t really speak English, so as I’m trying to explain my insurance to them in Spanish, they told me I had to call a different  number.  So I called that number and they said the original number I called was wrong, so here’s a new number.  I was like, screw it, I don’t want to go into Madrid when I’m feeling this bad anyway.  So I texted Anahí and she said I should go to the emergency room (I knew it would be too expensive) or there was a private clinic in the next town over where I’d have to pay 100 euros (also too expensive).  I decided to call the 2nd one again, only to find out they had closed for the afternoon.  So I waited another hour (and spent most of the hour crying and wishing for my mom and feeling miserable because it was just too complicated) and called again to make an appointment for another hour later.  Finally, after about 4 hours of trying to figure things out, I made it to the doctor.  He took one look at my throat and shook his head, it was that bad.  Tonsillitis, he told me.  He prescribed me some antibiotics and told me to take lots of ibuprofen.  And finally, after all that, I’m feeling so much better and was able to go to school today, even though I’m still taking it easy this evening.  It was rough, and I did have a break down, but I was pretty proud of myself for being able to do it all in Spanish.  See dad?  My Spanish is improving 😜.

Google Test
I had been in the process of taking a Google Educator course online to teach me how to use Google applications in the classroom.  I took the exam online last night and passed!  I am now a Google Certified Educator Level 1!  Woohoo!  I hope my future school has a plethora of technology to use, because I’m excited to incorporate my newfound knowledge in my class!

Wow.  That was a lot of things…sorry for the long post.  I need to work on that…

Shoutout Corner!

Mom: My mama just started her new job at State Farm!  Wish her luck during training this week!
Yashas and Kourtney:
Thanks to you two for listening to me whine and complain all weekend about how sick I am.
 My awesome roomie entered my quarantined sick room without hesitation this weekend to bring me water and homemade mac and cheese. Dedication!

Countdown Corner!

My birthday: 12 days!
Trip to Valencia: 17 days!
Grandparents and Kourt come to Spain: 19 days!

So many exciting things coming!  I can’t wait!

Also, check out my friend Sam’s account of a Sunday afternoon we spent together on her blog:

IIIIII’ll Be Home for Christmas

Ahh, can’t you just hear Bing Crosby crooning  away now?  Well, I can…because that’s the song currently playing on Spotify…😉.

But you can’t imagine just how excited I am, because guess what?  According to the countdown app, it’s only 13 hours and 3 minutes until I board my flight back home for Christmas!!!  I’M SO PUMPED!!!  I can’t wait to hug my family, Yashas, my cats, sleep in my bed, use a clothes dryer, feel carpeting under my feet, eat mac ‘n cheese, and a whole assortment of other things that I’ve been missing oh so dearly the last 3 months.

But I barely had time to think about home this past week because of everything going on!

First, I have a new place of residence!  I’m now living with Lauren, one of the assistants at my school.  I moved into her apartment in Villanueva de la Cañada with her earlier this week, and it’s been great!  I’ve been enjoying living with her and I think we’re going to have a lot of fun the rest of our time here.

Second, our school had a Christmas program on Thursday, so we spent the week preparing for that!  Each grade performed a Christmas carol for the entire school/parents, and it was SO CUTE to watch all the kids in their Santa outfits and holiday hats singing and dancing.  I felt like a proud parent when I watched my 3rd and 4th graders perform!  Afterwards, all the teachers went out and had a couple drinks together.  I love my coworkers, and it was a good way to celebrate the end of a hectic week and the start of our vacation.

The assistants rockin’ it for Christmas

Third, it was one of the girl’s birthday that I tutor this week, so I was invited to her family birthday party!  I got to hang out, eat snacks, and meet so many family members, with whom I got to practice my Spanish.  It was really nice of them to invite me! The dad even said I was like family, which made my heart grow 3x its size, just like the Grinch’s.  I really love working with that family and feel very fortunate to know them.

Fourth, Lauren, her friend Katie, and Clara (who lives in VdlC) went out in Villanueva de la Cañada last weekend.  We assumed it would be pretty cool, considering there is a university in town and college students like to go out, but we were pretty disappointed.  The music was pretty bad and everyone looked like they were 16 years old, but we still had a good time together.

Okay, that’s all for now!  I gotta go finish packing for home!  Next stop: THE USA!!! ✈️

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your loved ones! 🎄 Enjoy your time with family and friends this holiday season!

Milan, Italy and Bad Luck.

Did we walk under a ladder?  Pass by a black cat?  Open an umbrella indoors?  Break a mirror?

Honestly, probably all of the above and then some with all the bad luck we had on our trip to Milan this past weekend.  But no matter: we made the most of our time despite the trials and tribulations we encountered and ended up having an amazing trip!

The History
Minorka, Carolina, and I had been talking about going to Italy for awhile, and since plane tickets to Milan were the cheapest, we went for it!  But I tell ya, trying to coordinate flight times/prices with 3 people was a struggle and half.  That’s where the bad luck all started…once we were finally able to agree on a ticket, Caro and I couldn’t purchase them due to some computer glitch.  Thank goodness Minorka was able to get them for us!

The AirBnb
Our place was gorgeous.  It was a cute little apartment in the Navigli district of Milan where there were several restaurants and bars.  It was about a 25 minute walk from the center of the city, which wasn’t too bad.  Basically, the apartment was the poster child for IKEA from the chairs to the couch to the cups, but it was perfect for what we needed, and the shower was dope.  Plus, our host was super friendly, gave us recommendations for places to eat, and even left us a bottle of wine as a welcome gift!


AirBnb welcome board!

The Sights
With only a few days in Milan, we had to pack a lot in!  The absolute best part was the Duomo di Milano, aka the Milan cathedral.  It was stunning!  The towering building had so many intricate details, both inside and out, which were very impressive.  We even got to go onto the terraces on top of the cathedral to get some amazing views and get a closer look at the architecture.  So beautiful!

We also went to 2 museums: Museo del Duomo and the Museo del Novecento.  The former had many sculptures and replicas of various aspects of the Duomo, while the latter was an art museum with contemporary pieces.  Both were interesting and neat to visit.

Another place we saw was the Castillo Sforzesco, which was this cool little castle.  While we didn’t go into any museums that were there, we did walk through it and even encountered a Christmas market while there.  It was pretty neat.

Besides that, we walked around in the center a bunch and checked out the high-end shops, from which we bought nothing because we spent all our money on food and gelato instead.


Milan Duomo

The Food
Speaking of food…the irony of this trip is that we were in Italy and were hungry the entire time.  How does that even happen?  Surrounded by pizza and pasta and gelato, yet still hungry?  Well, first, Italians don’t believe in “breakfast.”  Breakfast to them is a croissant and coffee.  (But where are the eggs?  Where are the pancakes?)  Also, with our schedule of sightseeing, we weren’t always able to eat at the “normal” times.  But Italian restaurants are closed from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm, so if you’re hungry during that time?  Sorry.

But when we did eat, here are some of the things we had:

  • Pasta. Twice. I ate ravioli once and tortellini once.  Both were pretty good, but nothing spectacular.  I think I came with too high of expectations, lol.
  • Pizza.  This pizza from Pizzeria Gino Sorbillo was huge but by golly, we ate the whole thing. It was recommended by our host, and though we waited 2 hours for it, it was worth it.
  • Gelato.  I ate some every day, and we were there for 3 days, lolz.
  • Panzerotti.  This little calzone was such a nice snack on a cold day, but again, we had to wait in a line.
  • Beer.  We went to a bar near our AirBnb one night called La Fontanella where they serve you beer in quirky containers!  We chose a 3 liter giant tube…and drank the entire thing.

Okay, so I realize it doesn’t sound like we were ever hungry, but just tell that to the girls that scoured the pantry and fridge of the AirBnb and thought the corn flakes we found were heaven on Earth.


The Bad Luck
Oh boy.  Even though these were all very minor issues, the fact that they all happened on one trip was very frustrating.  However, we kept positive attitudes the entire time and thankfully made it through!

  • Before we even left, Minorka had no water in her apartment because they were doing some repairs or something, so that was a great way to start off the trip.
  • We missed 2 buses from the airport to the city center when we landed because they were full and we weren’t aggressive enough to get on.  This meant we spent extra time in the cold. We also waited for 20 minutes and missed a tram once because we didn’t know you needed to buy tickets beforehand.  Then we ended up buying a 2 day tram pass and rode the tram a total of 2 times…smh.
  • Speaking of cold, it was cold in Milan.  We were not expecting it to be so bitter, but it was!  And with as much time as we spent outside, it was not pleasant.
  • Caro brought the wrong charging adapter for her phone; instead of the Europe adapter, she brought the China one 😂.
  • Caro got locked into a bathroom in the Novacento museum.  She also got shut into the tram doors one day because it was so crowded.
  • We waited for 2 hours for our pizza; we were told it was a one hour wait, so we walked around for a bit and came back 15 minutes early only to find that they had started calling people that were after us on the list.  By the time we got our food, it had been 2 hours, for freaking pizza.
  • The terrace at the Duomo was always closed because of ice, and nobody ever knew when it would open.  If we had a euro for every time someone told us, “It should be open in an hour…” we’d be rich.  Luckily we finally got to see it, but we wasted a lot of time waiting for it to open.
  • We tried to see the painting, The Last Supper, but the museum was sold out of tickets.
  • This one takes the cake: we were never allowed to eat gelato.  At one place, we sat at a table and the waiter asked us our order.  We told him, but he started explaining something to us in Italian, which of course we didn’t understand.  Then he found out Caro and Minorka speak Spanish, so he started explaining it in Spanish.  Except the girls had no idea what he said and we ended up even more confused.  So Caro and I went to the counter to ask if the waiter had actually taken our order or not.  But the girl at the counter didn’t speak English, so she called over a coworker.  We tried asking him, but he didn’t understand and called over another coworker.  So ultimately we had 3 people at the counter helping us, only to find out we were only allowed to eat cones at the table, not cups.  Cups were for the to-go gelato, apparently (???), so we all had to get cones even though Mino and Caro didn’t want that.  At another gelato place, I again wasn’t allowed to eat gelato there, so I sat there patiently while Caro and Mino drank their coffee.  When we left, I ordered my gelato but stumbled over the word stracciatella when ordering.  And you know what?  That a** hat of a gelato scooper wouldn’t give me the gelato until I could pronounce it correctly.  But did he pronounce it for me to help me out?  Nope.  He laughed at me as I stood there pointing and smiling like and idiot until Mino swooped in with her awesome pronunciation skills so I could actually eat my gelato.  Dear goodness, why is it so complicated?

So again, none of these were huge deals, but one thing after another made us question what was wrong with us.  It was an awesome trip, though, and Mino and Caro were great travel partners!


  • Time since I’ve been here: Happy 3 month Spainiversary to me today!
  • Time to home: According to my countdown app, 11 days and 13 hours until I board my plane for home.  I can’t wait!
  • I ENTERED A VIDEO CONTEST THOUGH CIEE! The contest was to upload a 1 minute video about your time in your country and the video with the most shares on Facebook gets to invite a friend to visit you FOR FREE! I entered the contest and would be ETERNALLY GRATEFUL if you could share the video (starting Dec. 15) because I really want my sister to come to Spain! So please keep an eye out!! THANK YOU!!!

Solo Trip 2: Granada.

SOLO TRIP ROUND TWO!!!  *Cue the alarms and flashing lights.*

That’s right! My second solo trip is under my belt, and I couldn’t be happier.  This weekend was absolutely phenomenal, so if you don’t mind me gushing about the wonders of Granada and why you should visit, please read on.

I woke up early to catch the bus into Madrid (1 hour) to take the metro to the bus station (30 minutes) to take another bus to Granada (5 hours).  Except the first leg of the journey took way longer than usual, which meant I barely made the Granada bus on time.  As in, I ran through the bus station and was the last person on the bus before we left. I had about a minute to spare, but thank goodness I made it.  So after the long journey, I walked about 40 minutes to my hostel which is in the Albayzín district of Granada.  The winding streets were beautiful (and confusing), and there were these neat little shops all around.  I spent a good amount of time wandering into these shops and checking out the wares that evening, but I also went to the Mirador de San Nicolas that night.  This little plaza has the best view of the outside of the Alhambra, and seeing it lit up at night was amazing.  Too bad my pictures didn’t turn out so well, but oh well!  I ended my first night with some delicious vegetable cous cous and a glass of wine at a restaurant near my hostel.  As much as I love traveling alone, I’m still trying to get used to the eating alone part!


3rd floor terrace of my hostel



The streets of the Albayzín


On Sunday I slept in as best as I could (hostals are not the quietest places in the world), but then headed to Carmen de los Mártires, aka beautiful gardens nearby the Alhambra.  I mean wow.  Wandering through the different areas of these gardens was so peaceful and the views of the city were breathtaking.  I was so thankful for the fact that it was December and the fall colors on the trees were so well-preserved!  And even better?  I got to see wild peacocks and peahens roaming around!  They were absolutely gorgeous and they let me get pretty close to them without running/flying away.  I was so happy there!

After the gardens, I made my way back to the Mirador to get some pictures of the Alhambra during the day since my night pics were a little meh.  There was a little cafe/bar nearby too, with an outside terrace looking out over the Alhambra, so I treated myself to a nice glass of sangria and enjoyed the view.

In the afternoon, the hostel had a free walking tour, so I joined in on that.  We went to so many places!  We admired the street art by El Niño de las Pinturas, strolled through the gardens for a bit, walked up a ton of hills, and even went to Sacromonte, an area in Granada where people live in caves!  We got to go inside of one of the caves and have a drink there, and we also got to see the outside of some of the “squatter caves.”  We learned that it’s really cheap to live in the caves, especially because there’s no need for air conditioning or heat-it’s all natural!

Along the way, I got to know some cool people, including a guy from the US teaching English in Toledo and 3 girls from Australia who are backpacking in Europe.  So that night we all went to a tapas bar called Poe and enjoyed Granada’s tapa culture!  Granada is famous for having bars in which you can order a drink and get a free tapa, so we indulged. It was muy rico.




View from the city after our walking tour



Tapas at Poe

I tried so hard to be a good hostel roommate, and in doing so, I effed myself over.  Long story short, I tried to keep my phone near me Sunday night so my early Monday alarm wouldn’t wake everyone up (it takes awhile to get down off a bunk bed to shut an alarm off, especially if your name is Kasey).  However, because of this, my phone didn’t charge correctly and I therefore had no phone to take photos of the Alhambra.  Cue the tears and the mild panic.  I was distraught, until I remembered I had my GoPro to take pictures!  Problem solved!

So I set out early in the morning with my tourist map in hand (no phone=no Google Maps) and made my way to the ticket office to pick up my ticket for the Alhambra, the famous fortress/palace in Granada.

As soon as I stepped foot inside the grounds, my life changed.

I have never seen anything so beautiful in my life.  The intricate details and designs of the Nasrid Palaces were incredible.  The Alcazaba, the fortress part, was very impressive and had magnificent views.  I fell in love with the beauty of the Partal and the Generalife gardens.  The grandeur of it all was breathtaking, and I was captivated.  I truly hope that everyone I know will someday get the chance to visit…just make sure to buy your tickets in advance or you’ll have to wait in line at 6:00 am!

After spending a few hours at the Alhambra and eating a snack in the courtyard where there were a bunch of cats running around, I headed back to the hostel to charge my phone and prepare for my visit to Hammam Al Andalus, an Arab bathhouse.  These bathhouses were important to Muslims because to them, water is the symbol of purity.  Plus, these bathhouses provided the opportunity for socialization.  However, many were destroyed by Christians because they were seen as inappropriate.  This hammam is one of the first to be reopened after it closed in the 16th century.  It was a very interesting experience, but after a long day of walking around, I wanted to treat myself!  Here’s how it went down:

Upon entering and checking in, I was given little booties to cover my shoes.  I was shown to a changing room where I put on my bathing suit and put my things in a locker.  Then I entered the rooms with the baths.  There were 4 baths from what I can remember, each in different sectioned off areas.  One was very small and was the cold bath.  There was a long bath that was shallow and hot, as well as a smaller, deeper hot bath.  Then there was a very large and deep warm bath.  You’re supposed to go between these baths and sit and relax and enjoy yourself, which I had a little bit of a hard time doing, simply because I had no idea what the heck I was doing.  I tried to take my cue from everyone around me, but seeing as several of these people were couples who decided to engage in PDA, I just decided to do my own thing instead.  I went between the baths at my leisure, particularly enjoying the hot baths and spending minimal time in the cold bath because let’s be real, I’m not trying to pretend I had been on the Titanic and swimming around in freezing cold water.  I even tried the steam room but lasted a solid 45 seconds before I thought I couldn’t breathe anymore and made my escape.

After awhile, it was pretty relaxing.  The lights were all dimmed, there were candles everywhere, and soft music was playing.  Plus the bathhouse itself was beautiful architecturally.  But then, the main event: the massage!  I splurged for the 30 minute one (treat yoself) and ohmygosh it was so relaxing.  I was so content and happy and I really didn’t want to leave after that.  But alas, all good things come to an end.

That night, several people from the hostel went on a tapas tour and we ate some more delicious food and enjoyed each other’s company.


More tapas

I slept in a little on this day and then headed to the Granada cathedral and took a tour of that.  It was incredibly large and elaborate and beautiful.  I also wandered the streets a little before it was time to head back to the bus station.

Just like last time, I’m very happy with the way this solo trip turned out.


Another piece of news: the teachers and auxiliares at my school all went to this fancy dinner at a restaurant called La Partida in Villanueva de la Cañada last Friday and it was delicious!  I feel very fortunate to work with such amazing people.


My coworkers! Thanks for sharing the photo, Anahí!

And now?  Now I’m gearing up for my trip to Milan, Italy with Minorka and Carolina!  Stay tuned!

Little Update (Mostly About Food).

Hello!  I figured I’d write a short little update now because I’ve got some big trips coming up and I’m sure I’ll want to write long-winded posts about them, so here goes!

Fun fact: Spain schools go harder for Thanksgiving than schools in the United States.  I guess in general, Spain schools just love celebrating holidays.

Last week was Thanksgiving, so of course we had to celebrate!  In third grade, we spent all week making pilgrims and the Mayflower and such.  In fourth grade, I got to lead a thankfulness activity and a silly Thanksgiving Would You Rather game. It was a lot of fun!

Anahí and I dressing up like Koo Koo Kangaroo to do a Thanksgiving dance!

Another way I celebrated Thanksgiving?  By getting together with Minorka, Caro, and Sam to eat pizza and apple pie and pumpkin bread.  It was no turkey, mashed potatoes, corn, or pumpkin pie, but hey, it was delicious food with great company.  We made the best with what we had!

Shopping Disaster
We also indulged in a little Black Friday shopping (on Saturday) and ate some delicious tacos for 1 euro each at a little place called Takos.  Amazing.  But funny story about this day: we are walking through the streets of Madrid in the pouring rain with our paper shopping bags when one of my bags completely separates from the handles and spews the contents all over the ground.  Laughing, I pick everything up and carry the bag by the bottom when my other bag begins ripping.  Caro has to shove some of my stuff into her bag, and Minorka tries to prevent anything from happening to her bags by holding them from the bottom.  But lo and behold, her bag splits too, and basically at one point all of our stuff is all over the ground and we are trying to gather it up and we are soaking wet and can’t help but laugh despite how frustrated, wet, and cold we are.  I tell you, it was quite hilarious.

Other Things

Corn: Since I hail from the Midwest, I feel like I am sort of an expert on corn on the cob. I’m pretty convinced I’ve tasted the best sweet corn in the world.  Hello, we have a Sweet Corn Festival in Normal… But Selena set out to prove me wrong.  She took us to this street stand where they roast corn on the cob and slather it with this red sauce called mojo picón.  Oh. My. Goodness.  That sauce on that corn was amazing.  I will definitely be going back.

wp-image-625289882jpg.jpgDinner with a Friend: The other day, a girl I met while traveling in Porto named Hind told me she would be in Madrid and asked to meet up.  She’s from Morocco and is studying in Portugal; how cool?!  We went to this amazing Thai restaurant and spent some time talking.  She is such a cool person and I’m really glad we got to spend some time together!


Going Home: According to my countdown app: 22 days and 11 hours until I board my flight to come home for Christmas.  My excitement is more intense than that house in Normal that overdecorates for Christmas with weird Santa statues.

Month Two: Check.

Well, well, well…it appears I’ve been in this amazing country for a little over two months now, which is crazy.  Time has been flying, and it feels like I’ve been here for so much longer.  And as much as I love it here, I’ve been anxiously counting down to when I get to go home…a little over a month away!

But of course, to keep my mind off my excitement for that, here’s what I’ve been doing:

Segovia and La Granja
A couple weekends ago, I took a day trip to Segovia, Spain with Sam.  It was gorgeous!  Between the impressive architecture of the aqueduct and the splendor of the Alcázar, my eyes were in heaven from beauty overload.  You know, I love the US, but the architecture just doesn’t compare to that of Spain.  I could look at the buildings and the castles and the structures for forever.  Plus, we got to try cochinillo, aka roast suckling pig.  This is a typical dish of Segovia where they literally roast a whole pig and then cut it with a plate.  The group found it extremely entertaining to see who got which body parts.  I got a leg while some others got ribs or even part of the head with ears! We also went to La Granja and toured the gardens, which were gorgeous in the fall!





The Alcázar, aka inspiration for Snow White castle


Bodega Portia and Lerma
Another day trip in the books this past weekend with Selena!  First stop: Bodega Portia, a winery designed by Norman Foster.  WARNING: Prepare for more gushing about architecture.  This building was amazing!  It was built in the shape of a flower with 3 petals.  In each “petal,” a different stage of the wine making occurs.  Plus, tractors haul the grapes onto the roof of the building to pour grapes into the machines so gravity can do its work and less energy is used.  It was fantastic…and so was the wine we got to taste!  Of course, they tried to be classy and teach us about color and intensity and when to swirl it and whatnot, but let’s be real, I just wanted to drink it.

After the winery, we headed to Lerma, a little town about 30 minutes away from there.  Selena and I met a couple cool chicas and we all got lunch together to indulge on the typical dish of the area: lechazo, aka roast lamb!  It was so tender, juicy, and delicious.  With our bellies full, we proceeded to take a walking tour of the town. And while it was in Spanish, I found that it’s gotten a little easier to understand.  Of course, it helped that Selena translated!




MadrEat Food Truck Festival
So just when you thought I would stop telling you about the food I ate, I have one more food story.  This weekend I went to a food truck festival with Minorka and Carolina, and it was so delish.  Even though the rain was a bummer, it didn’t stop us from chowing down on arepas and hot dogs and quesadillas!  We were stuffed, but it was so worth it.  We finished the weekend by seeing Arrival, which was a phenomenal movie.

Some other thoughts…

The Election
So I’m not going to spend much time writing about this topic (as everyone has been inundated with too much election information lately), but I would like to make a comment about it.  I had sent in my absentee ballot back in early October, and after that, I’ll admit, it was pretty easy to forget about all things election since I was so physically far-removed from it all.  But then the election rolled around and the results were announced and I have to say, waking up to the news that I woke up to was devastating.  I truly couldn’t believe it and had difficulty keeping my emotions in check when I had to leave for school that morning.  Luckily, my co-teacher completely understood and let me take a break from doing calendar that morning so I could get myself together.  But the rest of the day, some of the other teachers made comments feeling sorry for me, and it made me realize what a crazy time it is to be a representative of the United States in another country these days.  The perception people from other countries have of Americans is not always positive, but I don’t think this election has helped it in any way.  I even read a status from someone I met in Porto who is from Morocco that said Trump’s winning of the election meant Americans are racist.  It just breaks my heart that I sometimes feel nervous or embarrassed to say where I’m from, simply because I don’t know how that will be perceived.  I’m trying to be the best representative I can be, though, despite it all.

And Some Comedic Relief…
The other day, my co-teacher, Anahí, and I were playing a vocabulary game with the 3rd graders.  We had them suggest words and phrases they knew/had studied to put in the bucket.  Then, she or I would pull out a word and give the students a clue to see if they could figure out the “mystery word.”  So the phase I pulled out was, “Going home.”  I gave the clue, “This is what you do when school is finished.”  Now one student shot his hand up and looked so eager to answer this question.  So we called on him, and you know what answer he gave?


That’s right.  He literally said 57.  Anahí and I did everything we could to hold it together.  So again, we gave the clue and called on another student.  The new answer?


Guys, you can’t make this stuff up.  This is my life as an English teacher.

Random Corner
Proud of: My BFF Chloe on her new job with Steve Madden in NYC!  Can’t believe it-you will do amazing things there, I know it!  Also, proud of Lush for nailing the full time position at DataCamp.  You’re pretty amazing, and I can’t wait to celebrate with you when I’m home!
Thanks to: Lauren’s mom and aunt for treating me to lunch the other day!  It was a pleasure meeting you.
Latest purchase (besides food): I finally bought myself some short black boots, considering I (sadly) retired the Chacos for the season.  Retail therapy is amazing, people.  Though, maybe not for the bank account.

Until next time!