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.

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!

IIIIII’ll Be Home for Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

The assistants rockin’ it for Christmas

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

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

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

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

Little Update (Mostly About Food).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Things

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

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


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

Month Two: Check.

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

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

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





The Alcázar, aka inspiration for Snow White castle


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

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




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

Some other thoughts…

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

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


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


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

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

Until next time!

The Other Post I Promised.

Hey again, everyone!  Just when you thought you wouldn’t have to read another post for awhile, I’m back at it to chronicle the events I skipped over in order to write this post.  Because the last one was so long, I’ll try to keep this one short and sweet.

A couple weekends ago, I went on a day trip to Toledo, Spain through a program called City Life Madrid.  I was supposed to go with my friend Sam, but she was feeling pretty sick and couldn’t make it.  So of course I was freaking out about going by myself (remember, this is before I gained confidence traveling solo from Porto).  But there was no need to worry because I met 3 awesome chicas also on the trip and we had a great time!  We enjoyed the tour exploring the ancient streets and admiring the architecture.  It looked very medieval and has Christian, Muslim, and Jewish influences.  We even rode the zipline, which was super fun, and the views were amazing!




Tren de la Fresa & Aranjuez
The next adventure was going to Aranjuez on an old-fashioned train called the Tren de la Fresa!  Minorka and I enjoyed the ride by eating the strawberries (fresas) they gave us and then had a blast exploring the city of Aranjuez.  It. Was. Gorgeous.  We toured the royal gardens and even took a boat ride while sipping sangria.  The trees, fountains, flowers, and weather were all beautiful.  It was a lot of fun!



Tren de la Fresa!





Am I an avid hiker, prepared with hiking boots, a walking stick, and a good understanding of trails?  Heck no.  So naturally, I decided to do a 16k hike with Minorka and her friend Carolina in Miraflores de la Sierra with a group  called Hiking Madrid.  It kicked our butts.  There were steep areas with rocks, streams we had to cross, and cow poop to maneuver.  But it was gorgeous!  It was a lot of fun and we had a lot of laughs at how out of shape we were compared to the other hikers.  The best part (besides the gorgeous views) was that we got peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, which I have been craving like nobody’s business.  Leave it to me to think the best part was the food…  We decided we really needed to get into hiking so we could have an excuse to buy legit hiking boots, because they’re pretty cheap here. 😉





Lol, had to take this pic because of the leaves!

Ohhh man.  You would not believe how into Halloween the kids at my school are.  Well, I guess just the school in general!  The Friday before Halloween, the entire day was dedicated to Halloween activities.  I’m talking spooky games, activities, and even a “horror tunnel” where the teachers dressed up and scared the students!  All the kids had on their costumes and elaborate face makeup and were so excited all day!  It was really cute.  Plus, all the teachers dressed up as Ghostbusters characters, so I was the Stay Puft marshmallow monster!  It was really fun and cute, but also really exhausting, lol.


Making Pumpkin Bread
Okay, if you’ve been keeping up with the blog, you know how much I miss the Fall and all that comes with it.  My favorite Fall food is pumpkin bread, so I decided I had to make some.  I bought some canned pumpkin, measuring devices, and baking soda (they don’t bake with baking soda in Spain?) at the Taste of America store (hallelujah for that store) and had my mom send me her delicious recipe.  Well, I followed all the instructions as best as I could, but unfortunately…it did not turn out as expected.  I don’t know if the oven temperature conversion was wrong when I did it online, but those stupid loaves charred on top and were a gooey mess on the inside.  I was so upset and couldn’t help but tear up because I had been so excited for a taste of home.  However, determined to make the most of it, I cut off the top and managed to salvage the middle portion of the loaves.  I brought it in to school so my fellow auxiliares could try it (they had never had it and always made fun of me for how much I talked about it) and they loved it!  So even though it didn’t go as planned, it was still delicious.  Even my host mom liked it!

Hanging with the Auxiliares
Okay, I can’t write another post without mentioning the awesome coworkers I have (mostly because Lauren has been dying to be mentioned in the blog, lol).  Two of the ladies I’ve gotten closest with are Selena and Lauren.  Selena is from Puerto Rico and is super cool and chill.  She is a very “go with the flow” type person, which is the exact opposite of me, but we get along well.  Lauren is from England and she and I make fun of each other’s accents and differences in our English, which gets hilarious sometimes.  We’ve all hung out a few times outside of school, including going to Tapapiés, a food festival in the Lavapies area where the restaurants each have a tapa and you try to go to as many places as possible.  I really enjoy spending time with them (and complaining about school with them!).  I’m lucky to work with some cool people.



Some delicious tapas


In other news, this last weekend was my youngest host sister’s birthday (she turned 6), so my host mom threw her a Little Red Riding Hood birthday party, and it was so cute!  There were about 15 little girls dressed in red capes and hoods running around and the decorations were phenomenal.  It was really cool to be a part of!

Alright, so that post was a little longer than I anticipated, but you can’t expect much else from me.  I hope everyone has an amazing week and enjoys the last of the Fall weather before it gets too cold!