Saying Goodbye.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commiserating with the Wicked Witch of the West.

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

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

Well, it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Gonna miss this girl…


…and this view.

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

In Barcelona.

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

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

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

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


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

Until we walked into our hostel room.

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

Oh no.

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

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

“We’ll dance around La Sagrada Familia…”

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

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






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

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



Lamp post designed by Gaudí – his first work



Las Ramblas, I’ll meet you…”

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

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

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

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




Let’s talk about Trinity…

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

…and this heat wave.

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

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

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!

To My Family Who Visited Me in Spain,

Dear Grandma, Grandpa, and Kourtney,

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

Dear Grandma and Grandpa,

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

Dear Grandma,

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

Dear Grandpa,

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

Dear Kourtney,

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

Dear Grandma, Grandpa, and Kourtney,

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






Grandma eating churros at San Gines!




Boating in Retiro Park




Las Fallas de Valencia: The Weekend I Became a Pyromaniac

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


The 1994 pardoned ninot.


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

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

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

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


Another falla

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


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

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

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

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


Burning of the main falla

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

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

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!

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:

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


When Stepping in Dog Poop is Good Luck & Other Stories from the Week.

If the title is any indication, this post is gonna be a doozy.  So strap in and prepare yourself for one wild ride as I recount all the disgusting, messy, and entertaining events of the week.

Dog Poop is Good Luck
It was Friday morning.  I awoke with excitement; just one more day of school until the weekend! My students even have a delightful song for Fridays: “Friday, Friday, it’s my favorite day.  The weekend is coming, and so I can play, play, play!!!”  So there I was, chipper and prancing down the sidewalk (okay, not really) with Lauren on our way to school.

But then it happened.

I looked down and saw the brown mess squished on the bottom of my foot.

“NOOOOO!!!” I yelled in my head.

“NOOOOO!!!” I yelled out loud.   Normally I am so careful about looking at the sidewalk when I walk to school because dog owners in this town just leave their dog poop everywhere, including the middle of the sidewalk.  (Have I ever mentioned that Lauren and I once counted 15 piles of dog poop on the sidewalk on our 20 minute walk to school one day?)  But today, I slipped up, and my moment of weakness lead to a shoe covered in poop.  Greaaaaaat.  So I tried wiping it off on the sidewalk.  And then on a ledge.  And then in a puddle.  And then in the grass.  And then in a fountain.  I got most of it off, but it was still there.  I recounted this tale to Anahí when I got to school, and she asked me, “Well, was it your right foot or your left foot?”  I told her left, and she told me that’s good luck in Spain!  And then one of my students proceeded to tell me how it’s true because one time she stepped in dog poop and then won the lottery of a whole 8 euros.  I don’t know about you, girl, but I’d rather be 8 euros poorer than deal with dog crap on the bottom of my foot.

Crazy Week at School
As if they aren’t always crazy, this week was especially insane.  It started with the fact that Anahí and I were just told that our kiddos have to take the Trinity exam, which is an exam in which they have to talk about a topic for 5 minutes and then have to answer questions for 5 minutes…in English.  Many schools knew their kids would be taking this exam from the beginning of the school year, but we had been told ours wouldn’t.  Until this week.  So of course, being the type A people Anahí and I are, we had a minor stress freakout before we made a plan for how to proceed with teaching them all they need to know before the exam.  We’re still nervous, but feeling a little more confident now that we have a plan.

Another crazy thing from this week?  The art teacher decided it would be a good idea for the kids to paint…with food.  Oh boy, I thought to myself.  This is gonna be bad.

And it was.  The kids brought ketchup and mustard and Nutella and yogurt and whipped cream and toothpaste and berries and pickled beets and a whole assortment of other disgusting things that, when smeared across a paper, look like bodily fluids that could come out of any orifice.  Not to mention the absolutely putrid smell that filled the air when these foods were all mixed together.  I had to leave on a couple occasions because I just couldn’t handle it.  It was disgusting.


The kids’ food paintings…

Bringing Diabetes to Spain
When I came back from Normal, I knew I’d want a taste of home, so I brought back all the necessary ingredients to make Puppy Chow!  I finally got around to making it this week, which made me very happy.  I then proceeded to introduce this crack-like food to Lauren (who loved it and hated me for it), the teachers at my school (who loved it and hated me for it), the family I tutor for (who loved it and hated me for it), and the girl I meet with to do Spanish lessons (who loved it and hated me for it).  Even though they hated me (because it was so addicting and bad for you), I was happy to introduce them to it.

I’ve met up twice with a girl named Lucía so I can practice Spanish and she can practice English, and it’s been great so far!  She’s my age and lives nearby, so it’s not only convenient, but she’s also super nice and fun to talk to!  We’ve taught each other a lot and agonize over the fact that some words just don’t translate between the languages.  For example, in Spanish they use the word pesado to describe someone or a situation that is annoying or mean.  The literal translation is heavy, but we would never say that in English!  Also, Spanish has no word that means commute, which is pretty interesting considering the concept exists here!  I’m excited to continue learning and practicing with her.

Lauren’s Parents in Town
This week, Lauren’s parents visited and they were kind enough to invite me to hang out with them!  They even made a traditional England Sunday roast dinner last night, which was absolutely delicious!  They were so kind and I’m glad I got to spend time with them.


Remember that bucket list from my last post?  I got to cross another thing off!  Both Minorka and I wanted to visit this small town about 2 hours away from Madrid, so we went ahead and did it, along with her roommate, Sofía!  We took a bus there and got to see the casas colgadas (hanging houses), walk across the Puente de San Pablo, walk around town, get a drink inside of an amazing cave bar, and took a tour inside a tunnel underground which we learned was used as a bunker to keep people safe from bombs during the Spanish Civil War.  All-in-all, it was a great little trip and the weather was fantastic!


Casa colgada


Into the cave/tunnel we go!

Sour Cream
So the other night, I wanted to make tacos, and we didn’t have any sour cream because it just doesn’t exist in this town.  So we went to the Mexican restaurant (where we’re regulars!) in town to ask if they would sell us some sour cream.  The woman working said she’d ask her boss and then text us.  Later that night, she texted me and said we could buy some on Friday.  We were kind of bummed not to have it with the tacos (which were still amazing, despite the lack of sour cream AND the fact that I had to make up my own taco seasoning), but we bought the carton on Friday and are now STOKED to eat it this week!

Well, that’s it for this week (and month for that matter).  Have an awesome week and stay positive, despite the crazy events going on in the world right now.  I’ll try to follow my own advice, but goodness knows it’s easier said than done!