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!

Basque-ing in the Rain and Pintxos.

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

Who am I kidding?  THANK YOU, SPAIN!

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

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


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


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

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



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

And then?


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


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

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

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




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

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

A Cumpleaños to Remember.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Surprise! This Post is About Food.

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

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

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


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


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

But we still did it.

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

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

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




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



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


In Other, Non-Food Related News…

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

Me: What are your hobbies?
Him: December.

Me too.  I like to December too. 😵

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

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

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

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

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



Some dope Madrid street art


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!