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!

A Cumpleaños to Remember.

You know that phrase, “March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb”?  Well, technically it refers to the weather, but it also applies to the fact that March has been pretty busy so far!  The past two weeks have been quite a whirlwind, and I know the upcoming ones will be as well.  I’m going to have to think of new wording for that phrase…maybe, “March comes in like a lion and out like a frazzled lion because it’s so tired from March”?  Nah, maybe not.  Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue. If you have any suggestions, keep me posted.

School Events
As you know from previous posts, my school loves having fun days, and March has been no exception.  Last Monday, our class went on a field trip to the cultural center in town to watch a play in English called, Tic Tac Alice.  It was a version of Alice in Wonderland, and pronounced “Tick Tock Alice,” but of course Lauren and I had to make the joke that Alice must need some breath mints if it was spelled “Tic Tac.”  But anyway, Lauren and I had to work this day since we had or would miss a regular day of school, so we got up bright and early to herd the sheep children to the cultural center, which was a 25 minute walk away.  It was a day full of surprises: the children were well-behaved the entire time, and the play was actually pretty good!  The entire show was done with 2 actors and they often asked for audience participation, so the kids had a blast going up on stage and wearing silly hats and helping the actors.  Plus, they understood almost everything, which was great!

As if a field trip wasn’t enough fun for one week, the next day we had an Adapted Sports day at school!  One of the 2nd grade teachers, Sara, lost both of her legs in an accident a few years ago and is involved in an organization for people with different abilities who play sports.  She brought people from the organization in to teach the kids about adapted sports, and it was really cool!  They had presentations to teach the kids that having a disability doesn’t keep anyone from being physically active.  These presentations included videos with people skiing, playing basketball, rock climbing, playing tennis, swimming, running, fencing, and a whole assortment of other sports, despite having a physical disability.  Sara showed us videos of her running for Spain in the Paralympics this summer, where she got 5th place.  The kids even got to try playing basketball in wheelchairs, riding bikes where you peddled with your hands, playing soccer with an adapted ball for people who have visual impairments, and even seated volleyball and archery!  They had a lot of fun and learned a lot from it.  So did I!

My 23rd Cumpleaños
I celebrated my 23rd birthday this weekend, and it was so much fun!  It started on Friday when Anahí invited Lauren and I over to her house to eat fajitas that she made in the crock pot.  I had been waiting for that day since I first met her and found out about her famous crock pot fajitas!  We were so excited, and it was so delicious!!!  Anahí then gave me some birthday ice cream (including a candle to blow out) and a gift certificate to get a pedicure!  It was so sweet of her!  Lauren and I even got a tour of her gorgeous house and were filled with jealousy at the sight of her clothes dryer and her printer…we miss those luxuries.

Then the real fun began on Saturday!  I made reservations at my favorite restaurant in Madrid called Ojalá, aka the promised land because it’s one of the only places that serves macaroni and cheese in Madrid!  Anahí drove Lauren and I there (another luxury: a car!), where we met up with Minorka, Sofía, Nicole, Selena, Lucía, and Lucía’s friend.  We drank lots of sangria and and talked and laughed.  Lucía even brought some chocolate cake and carrot cake, which we passed around and enjoyed.  It was delicious, and so sweet of her!  Afterwards, we walked to another bar with cheap drinks and hung out and talked some more.  Around 1:00 am, we made our way to Teatro Kapital, aka item number 17 on my Madrid bucket list!  I had been wanting to go to this club since I first arrived in Madrid and heard of its legendary 7 floors.  It was really cool!  Each floor had different music.  We went to the rooftop, the floor with Latin music, the floor with hip hop/R&B music, the floor with karaoke (where we sang “S&M” by Rihanna) and the main floor, which had a giant stage and played electronic music.  This floor was insane…it had all sorts of laser lights and confetti and glass littering the floor, and fog would periodically shoot out of the ceiling and freak us out blind us.  We stayed there until 6:00 am (the madrileños take their nights out very seriously) when we left to go find pizza because we were hungry.  After that, Lauren and I caught the 7:15 am bus back to Villanueva were we promptly went to bed and didn’t get up again until the late afternoon.  I spent my actual birthday in bed for most of the day talking on the phone with my mom and Skyping with Yashas.  Plus, my amazing roomie filled my room with balloons and gave me an adorable bracelet with a charm that had my birthstone and “Madrid 2017” written on it.  It was so cute!


I’m so thankful for everyone who made my birthday weekend so special!  Despite being so far from home, I had a lot of fun and feel so fortunate to have met such wonderful people in Spain.  I also appreciate all the cards/texts/Facebook messages from people back home; this is gonna be a great year!

In Other News…
1.  We have added another place to our ever-lengthening list of amazing brunch places in Madrid!  MEAT Madrid is an adorable little restaurant near the Antón Martín that is known for its burgers, but it also has a selection of brunch foods.  The inside was super cute with exposed brick walls and communal tables with really hipster-looking light fixtures coming out.  We ordered some delicious breakfast tacos and some pancakes that were phenomenal!  I would definitely love going back!

2.  I got my PRAXIS test scores back and passed them all!  Plus, my New Jersey teaching certificate has been issued so I can begin applying for jobs!  Now for the hard part of filling out applications…

And a Funny Story!
I was in an art class with my kiddos the other day and they were coloring.  One of my students pointed at his paper and said, “It’s a sheet!”  I looked at it, confused. “Do you mean a sheep?” I asked him, though it didn’t look like that either. “No, a sheet,” he replied.  I still looked confused, so he asked me, “How do you say mierda in English?”  I wanted to burst out laughing because mierda in English is sh**!  I looked at him, trying to contain a straight face and told him that is a bad word in English and he shouldn’t say it.  Kids say the darndest things!

As if March wasn’t already crazy enough, my Valencia trip is this weekend and my grandparents and sister come next week! I’M SO EXCITED!!!

I hope everyone has a great week! Until next time!

Surprise! This Post is About Food.

But that doesn’t really surprise you, does it?

The past 2 weeks have been filled with eating and cooking and all kinds of delicious goodness, among other things.  So I will label this post with the names of the food and the stories will follow.  Grab yourself a napkin in case you start salivating!

One Pot Veggie, Shrimp, & Chorizo Dinner
I have all kinds of recipes saved on Pinterest these days; of course, they have to be modified due to the differences/lack of ingredients in Spain, but they are still doable and also delicious.  So a couple weeks ago, I tried this one and substituted the regular sausage for chorizo because #Spain and #yum.  But there was also shrimp in this recipe.  Fun fact: I didn’t eat a lot of seafood growing up because dad claims he won’t eat anything that swims in its own toilet.  Therefore, my knowledge of cooking seafood is slim to none, leaning towards the “none” side.   Cue my fabulous flatmate!  We bought fresh shrimp (prawns, according to her), and she taught me how to peel them.  It. Was. Disgusting.  They were cold and slippery and slimy and random liquids kept squirting out of them.  Not to mention the stringy thing we had to pull from them was impossible to remove and I kept getting distracted and making the shrimp “sing and dance” because it was just too fun.  But in the end, we had a scrumptious and healthy meal that I would totally make again and highly recommend.


Sticky Chicken Fail
With every success comes a failure, and in my opinion, this recipe was a failure.  Lauren and I had been so pumped all day for sticky lemon chicken tenders, but we couldn’t even finish them, because blehhh.  The honey and lemon combo was just not doing it for us.  Lauren even claimed it reminded her of having a cold since honey and lemon are good remedies for that.  Oh well. Fingers crossed we’ll make something better in the near future.


The Tale of the “Spicy” Meatballs
Once upon a time, Lauren and I decided it would be a good idea to invite all the teachers over to our flat for food and drinks on a Friday.  Normally we all go out on Fridays anyway, but this time we were like, “You know what would be a good idea?  Stressing ourselves out by having to make food for a group of Spaniards and have them over to our house even though half of them don’t speak English and it’s a stretch to say we speak Spanish.”

But we still did it.

Lauren made mozzarella-stuffed meatballs and I made brownies and mozzarella garlic bread and we cooked up some pasta for the teachers.  It was so awkward at first because Jose, one of the teachers who doesn’t speak English, was the first one that got to our flat and it was SO WEIRD.  We were trying to cook and we didn’t know what to say to him because, a) The language barrier, and b) He’s so cute and we were tongue tied and freaking out over the fact that he was in our house.

But before we knew it, more teachers had arrived and were sitting around and having drinks.  Even some of the teachers we never talked to showed up, so it was quite the party.  But then came time to serve the food.  And the guy teachers went insane. They were talking so fast it was so difficult to understand, but Anahí was dying laughing and we were sitting there confused.  Turns out all the guys were wimps and thought the meatballs were too spicy, but us girls loved them.  And to this day, we will never live it down because they still bring up those spicy meatballs at school.  Sigh.

We also learned some Spanish tongue twisters, such as tres tristes tigres tragaban trigo en un trigal.  We also taught them “She sells seashells by the seashore.”  And Jose, who doesn’t speak English, said, “Say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!”  He was awestruck when I was able to say it perfectly, until Damien, the science/art teacher, told him, “Es en inglés, tonto.” Aka, it’s in English, you fool.  We were dying, it was so funny.




Mercado de San Ildefonso
Turns out the teachers still liked us though, because we went out with them in Madrid for drinks the next day.  One of the places we went was the Mercado de San Ildefonso.  It was so neat!  The market had 3 or 4 floors and it was super hipster, but we had some amazing arepas and cheese sticks while we were there.  Muy rico.



Food for the Cats
So we have these cats that live outside our building.  Lauren’s mom had left some leftover meat scraps from the roast dinner she made when she was here a couple weeks ago so that I could feed them, so I did!  She’s basically enabling me to be a crazy cat lady, and I am perfectly okay with it.  Shoutout to you, Cate!  But there were cats everywhere, and they loved the meat.  One step closer to taking one home with me.


In Other, Non-Food Related News…

Funny story: since my students now have to take the Trinity English exam, I’ve been working with them individually in the hallway on their speaking skills.  Now, some students are very good at English, but of course, not all of them are.  Case in point:

Me: What are your hobbies?
Him: December.

Me too.  I like to December too. 😵

PRAXIS Exam: I’m in the process of obtaining my New Jersey teaching certificate for when I move back to the US (helloooo, east coast!), so today I had to go to Madrid to take the 4 hour PRAXIS test.  It was a lot harder than the practice test questions I had used to study, but fingers crossed I passed all the sections!

Why I’m Pumped: I just found out that ELAINE IS COMING TO SPAIN IN MAY TO VISIT FOR A WEEK!  It happened so randomly and suddenly (Me: “You should come visit, wink wink.” Her: “How serious are you?” Me: “How serious are you?”), but she bought her ticket and it’s official!  I cannot wait!

Google Hangouts with the Girls: I was so happy that I got to video call Katie and Chloe this week!  I’ve missed talking to them, and we haven’t all “been together” since the summer! It was so great, and I’m very thankful for my friends.

Where to Next?  Excellent question.  I’ll be traveling this weekend, so stay tuned for Instagram/Facebook/Snapchat posts to find out where I’ll be.  Hint: there may be a beach involved 😄.

PS, check out my latest GoPro videos here.  Unfortunately, they are unavailable on mobile/tablet platforms, but you can watch them on a computer!



Some dope Madrid street art