Rediscovery and Rebirth.

I had almost completely forgotten about my neglected blog. After reading about the adventures of many far-away friends, I returned to my old Spain blog page and decided I want to start writing down a few more of the happenings in my life. It serves as a way to stay in touch with friends all over the world and also helps me keep track of things that my sometimes distracted brain would otherwise forget. And it's always fun to look back on trips, events, and everyday victories!

So here is to 2011 and attempting yet again to enter the blogworld. Maybe I'll be more successful this time? We'll see what happens. But if nothing else, at least it got a sparkly make-over :)

More to come soon (I hope)...


Spring 2010: A whirlwind of work and play

So it’s been a busy, chaotic, eventful and fun six months. Between doing homework for class, planning lessons and teaching my wonderful students, working on my thesis, traveling and just generally living life in Spain, I haven’t had a lot of free time to do things such as update this blog (as made evident by the 6 month hiatus I’ve taken since my last post). So I’ll try to recap the highlights of this semester thus far:

  • In January, immediately upon returning from the US, Jordan and I went to Valencia to meet up with all of our friends there. Several of them who are studying in different countries this year were home for the holidays so we all enjoyed being together and had a delicious Mexican dinner (much more typical in Oklahoma than in Spain).

  • At the end of January, Jordan, Amanda and I went to visit my friend Reda in Casablanca Morocco. I met Reda when he came to OU as an exchange student (like most of my international friends) and he was an incredible and gracious host. He showed us around his beautiful city, hosted us for an amazing homemade couscous lunch with his family and even put us up in an incredible 5-star hotel. We all really enjoyed the weekend. The sights, food and people were all amazing! It just reinforced my love of Arab culture.

  • Lots of delicious meetings of SFC (Sunday Food Club).
  • In March, I was lucky enough to be able to meet up with Winston in London while he was traveling with a group from Kingfisher High School for Spring Break. One of my favorite things about Europe is the ease and affordability of plane travel. I was able to hop on a quick flight and spend a weekend in London. Their group kindly allowed me to join them on their tour. We visited Stonehenge and Bath one day and spent the rest of our time together in London. I really enjoyed catching up with my little brother and getting to hang out with him in London. I also got to see one of my good Colombian friends, Silvia, who is currently working in London. Great weekend!

  • The school which I teach at (for those of you who are interested, it’s called Colegio Internacional de Santo Tomás de Aquinas) hosts an annual race every spring. This year it benefited the rebuilding of a school in Haití. They asked me if I would co-host and be in charge of making the announcements and introductions during the race. It was an early but very fun Saturday. I loved getting to meet all the families of my students and see the excitement on their faces as they crossed the finish line.
  • One of my favorite days at school this semester was Carnival. In Spain, Carnival a huge celebration (not quite to the scale of that in Brazil, but still really big and fun). All of the kids and teachers come to school dressed up and we spend the day playing games. It’s similar to the way Halloween is celebrated in the US. Kids dress up as their favorite characters, movie stars, etc. as opposed to Halloween where they all wear really scary and bloody outfits. It was a fun day and I love seeing all my precious students dressed up as princesses and super heroes. Plus it’s another day of the year where I have an excuse to wear lots of glitter :)
  • Jarrett Franklin, one of my best friends from high school, came to visit me for a few weeks. It was so fun to travel together again. The last time we traveled together was in 2004 when we went on a school trip to Egypt. I enjoyed showing him around Spain and it was cool for him to meet all of my friends here. He went to school with me one day and met many of my students. They thought it was so cool to meet one of my friends from home and still ask about him.
  • Our equivalent of Spring Break occurs during Holy Week. It was a nice long break because we got Friday off, the entire next week, and the Monday following Easter. Jarrett, Jordan, Amanda, Kacey and I went to Italy. It was an incredible and much needed vacation. Winter had been pretty rough in Madrid. It was the coldest and harshest that anyone can remember. Spaniards tell me constantly that winter is NEVER like that. Just my luck. The weather, in addition to the demands of our program made us all ready for a break. And no better place to unwind than beautiful, delicious, passionate Italy. In order to be brief I will avoid going into many details but it was simply incredible. We flew into Milan and then went south to Cinque Terre, which is perhaps the most beautiful place I have ever been. It’s hard to say because I have seen some amazing and very unique places but it definitely ranks pretty high. We then went to Florence for a couple of days and then went to Rome. Charles Ramsdell, a fellow Kingfisherite who plays professional basketball in Spain, met up with us for a few days in Rome. We were in Rome for Easter, which was a remarkable experience. We saw the Pope on two different occasions: on Good Friday at Palatine Hill and also on Easter morning during Mass at St. Peters. Unfortunately it was really rainy and cold that particular Sunday morning but I’m glad that Kacey and I fought the crowds and endured. Definitely a unique life-experience.
In general, I ate more in those 10 days than I care to remember. We joked that we were eating our way through Italy yet we actually made that joke a reality. Although I think you would be hard pressed to find a better country to eat your way through. The never-ending gelato (we once went back for thirds in the same restaurant), pizza, pasta, focaccia bread, etc. was heavenly. And for people like us, who have various clubs and past-times dedicated to eating, it was quite appropriate.

I rediscovered how much I love Italian. I picked up a few words and phrases although it was so easy to speak Spanish. I had a one hour conversation where I was speaking Spanish and they guy was speaking Italian and I would say we understood about 70% of what we were saying, which was pretty surprising and fun. Italy is still one of my favorite countries in the world.

  • My 24th birthday celebration in Spain was definitely a memorable one. My friends made sure it was packed with lots of good food, sparkles, Shakira and dancing so I was one happy little duck. My high school students also surprised me. They bought me two cakes and when I walked in the room for class, they had the lights out and candles lit and jumped out singing “Happy Birthday/Feliz Cumpleaños”. It was one of the most genuine surprises I have ever received and they were so pleased that I was shocked. I truly had not expected anything. I also received gifts from several students. I really like being a teacher on my birthday, haha (and all other days of the year as well). Jordan’s birthday is just three days after mine so we had a joint birthday party and it was really fun!!

  • Five days ago I turned in my thesis. This is a monumental moment (and the reason I am currently able to write this blog). It ended up being 180 pages long and I’m quite proud of it. It’s not due until May 30th but I really wanted to just be done with it and enjoy my last couple of months here. I realized back in January that I would rather be inside working on my thesis while it was snowing outside instead of when the weather is beautiful. And I am ever so thankful that I made that decision and got motivated early because it feels amazing to be done with it. All of my friends are currently in major thesis crunch mode and I am able to calmly hangout and finally enjoy and bit of free time, which makes life in Spain truly incredible.


November, December and Christmas in Oklahoma :)

A combination of things have prevented me from updating this for a couple of months: my classes haven’t gotten increasing more demanding and time consuming and I had to flee my old apartment mid-November which left me living with friends for two weeks and now in an internet-less apartment. Despite this flaw (which is significant in my life), the new apartment is SO much better. I feel as though I have been snatched from the fiery pit below and placed in a clean, tranquil, modern heaven. I reduced my daily commute by two hours and my quality of life has improved dramatically (goodbye creepy public transportation companions who have major issues with staring!).

December flew by and I took several trips with great friends. We spent a four-day weekend in the South of Spain in Granada and Cordoba and it was amazing although much colder than I had been prepared for. The next weekend I went with 10 program-mates to Lisbon, Portugal. It was incredible! I loved the people, sites, my travel-mates, and the food!!! I could talk about all those things for ages but I won’t since I got to catch up with most of you over the break.

It was fun to experience Christmas festivities in another country. There were lots of similarities and plenty of differences as well. My students performed in Christmas programs that were adorable. I participated in an invisible friend gift exchange with my teachers (which I thought was more like secret Santa but in the end I discovered that you never reveal who you gave the gift too…something I totally blew since I thought we would tell the person when they opened it…oops, haha). I participated in the Christmas lottery which according to every Spanish person you ask is a national past time and an absolute must. After several teachers spent 30 minutes telling me why I needed to buy a ticket and even showing me examples of YouTube videos I caved and decided to fork over 20 Euros for my chance at the BIG one! All the teachers in my school had the same number so if we won, we would win big and cancel school the next day. We didn’t win. But the excitement and cultural experience was fun. For several weeks it was a conversation topic. I received many great gifts from my students including a super sparkly scarf and lots of candy. One of the most special gifts I received was from my high-school juniors. They mad me a huge card that was the Spanish flag that said “Spanish is Fun!” since they always laugh at the sign I have that says “English is Fun!” They all signed it and put a picture of themselves inside. As if that wasn’t sweet enough they then gave me two beautiful and very nice Tous bracelets. They had collected money from everyone in the class and went and bought them. It was so cute! I almost cried. And all the other teachers in the school were expressive of their amazement and jealousy since it is very unusual for kids of their age to do such a thing and they have never done that for any of them.

On December 23rd the moment I had been waiting for since November arrived! I flew home for Christmas!! I do know if you could have ever seen two more excited people in the Madrid than Jordan and me. When an airline worker approached us the tell us the flight was overbooked and offer us $1000 to fly the next day we said “NO” so quickly she could barely finish the offer. It was a good thing we didn’t take the offer as a pretty intense blizzard arrived mere hours after our flight and we wouldn’t have made it one day later. I felt so smug to be wrapped up at home in Kingfisher when all of the snow was falling and closing roads and airports. The next 2 weeks at home flew by as two of the most enjoyable and delicious weeks ever! It felt so good to be home with all of the people and things and food that I appreciate and miss so much. I spent lots of quality time with family and friends and got my American heart refilled, refueled and ready to take on Spain once again.


Sooners in Paris

Jordan and I flew to Paris for Halloween to reunite with friends from all over Europe and spend the weekend in this incredible city. This was my second trip to Paris (I decided I needed to give it a second chance after having not the best opinion after the first trip) and this time around I saw a completely new city which I fell in love with. Now I understand the obsession. I love Paris.

Jacek (Germany/Poland), Koke and Gloria (Spain), me, Guillaume (one of our wonderful French hosts) and Jordan. Marc, our other French host was not with us for this picture but he has the most incredible apartment ever. You can see an unobstructed and very near view of the Eiffel Tower from his balcony. In fact I think you can probably see his apartment in the background.

Soaking up the sun on the most beautiful Autumn day.

With all the guys in front of Les Invalides - the tomb of Napoleon.

With Gloria in front of a beautiful leaf-covered wall.

Halloween Night in Marc's apartment. The window behind us is where you can see the previously mentioned incredible view of the Eiffel Tower. We watch it sparkle and light up for hours.


My first visit to the doctor in Spain

Yesterday I went to the doctor for the first time in Spain (not the first time outside of the US though, as I have been lucky enough to get sick many times in South America). It was very interesting because there were many similarities but also many differences. The first HUGE and most notable difference is that I didn't pay anything (not a penny) because Spain as a socialized healthcare system. Because of that I could have went to any public health clinic but my program provides us with private insurance so I went to a private clinic near my house. My roommate helped me call to make the appointment earlier in the day because I virtually had no voice and when I arrived at 7:30pm (much later than any private clinic that I know would be open in the US) they of course said they had no record of my appoint. Welcome to Spain. Nonetheless, they let me wait and since it was the end of the day I didn't have to wait long for them to work me in because I just went after their last appointment. So I only waited about 15 minutes until the doctor came and got me. Another big difference - there were no nurses and they did not take any of my regular stats such as weight, temperature, etc. and didn't even ask me anything about my medical history (he did at least ask if I had any allergies before giving me my prescription). He just took me into a room that was the combination of an office and an examination room. So first he had me sit at his desk and skipping any sort of small-talk, acquaintances or introductions (I didn't even know his name) he just said "Ok what's wrong with you?" and had me tell him about my symptoms. Then he had me move to the examination table (which was identical to what we have in the US) for an examination. He listened to me breathe about 27 times on each side of my back, looked briefly down my throat (which was my primary reason for coming) and didn't even have me say "aaaaaaaahhhhh" so I'm not sure how he really saw anything. Then without telling me what I had he just handed me a prescription and said goodbye. I of course asked what was wrong with me and he said "Oh you have a virus that is going around..." Thanks for the elaborate info. So for all of you who think face time with the doctor during an appointment in the US is short, should appreciate it more. I mean it was okay since I had already begun to feel better and the only reason I actually went to the doctor is because it was free and because I needed a doctor's note to justify my absence at school but it definitely left me desiring a little more interaction and information. Note: The health system in Spain is good and I'm sure there are much better doctors than this guy out there.


OU/TEXAS weekend!!!! Sooner Reunion in Madrid!!!

Being the girl that organized OU/TEXAS weekend for 88 people last year, I could not just sit passively in Spain and watch this essential Sooner weekend pass-by without a proper celebration. So once again I put my event-planning skills to work and sent out an invitation to all of the Sooners who were part of the infamous trip last year and happen to live or be studying in the same country/continent as me. Nine of mine (6 from Spain, 1 from France and 2 fellow Americans) and Jordan's friends came to stay at our apartment for the weekend. We ate American food, we partied like Sooners and we watched the game (which luckily being thousands of miles away didn't impact our weekend quite as much as it does if you are actually in Dallas). We were 11 crazy sooner fans who took Madrid by storm, decked out in our OU gear.
Here we are in Plaza Mayor on Saturday. It is really funny to walk around a city in Madrid dressed in matching clothes. Since there are so many tourists, we had several people approach us to ask about the game or say boomer sooner. And we even got in a yelling fight with some texas fans in a park.
In front of the Templo de Debod (an Egyptian temple in the Park of the West). This is where we heard some clearly demented individuals yell "Texas Fight" and then the battle was on!

Watching the game in my apartment.

Trying to make cookies and pizza in my ghetto kitchen. See the butane-filled orange container? That is what we put in front of the oven to keep it closed. Would our apartment pass any level of safety test? I think not.

Glo, Sus and I in Retiro Park on Sunday. We packed a picnic and enjoyed the beautiful weekend weather (the last that we would have for this season in Madrid).


Busy Busy Busy

So I haven't updated in awhile because my life is crazy busy. Basically I wake up at 6:45 everyday, make a 1.5 hour commute to my school, teach from 9 to 5 and then give private english lessons to various students and adults after school until 9:30 or 10. Then I commute back home just in time to eat, shower, and sleep!!!! And this schedule is accented with 4.5 hours of Master classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights and homework and lesson planning. So basically by the time the weekend rolls around I don't want to do anything except for sleep. And not talk to children, haha.

The schedule has been a little bit tough for me the first couple of weeks (I basically had a complete breakdown which was provoked by a combination of sleep deprivation, overextending myself, and no personal time) but I'm getting more used to it now and I have found ways to make it a bit more livable. I talked to the headmaster of my school because I knew I couldn't survive a year at the pace I was going and we found some ways to change my schedule in order to better use my time. Before I had a lot of random short breaks during the day that did not count towards my hours but that required me to be at the school and did not allow me to get anything productive done. He is a very nice guy and he moved my Tuesday classes to Monday and Friday so now I don't have to go to Alcalá (the town outside of Madrid where I teach) on Tuesdays!!! Having one day where I don't have to do the awful commute and can actually get things done such as going to the bank and the grocery store (bc any other day I don't get home before 10 and everything is closed) is amazing! It makes a huge difference! I am much happier!

And I do really love teaching!!! Especially 3rd-6th grade!!! I like pre-school and high school too but middle school is just absolutely, 100% horrible!! I dread every single class I have to go to with those punks!! They just have the worst attitudes and grrr...I'm trying to find something to like about them but so far I've got nothing! Luckily only 4 out of my 18 classes are with them so the rest of the time I am very happy. I have so many cute kid stories...I'll start trying to write one per day because they are really just precious and so funny. I also really really enjoy teaching private lessons. I can just do so much more one on one plus the kids I teach are some of my favorites! I teach a 4 year old, 2 6 years olds, 3 10 year olds, 1 university student, and 2 adults (all at different times of course). The 10 year olds are particularly fabulous because they are smart and will do absolutely anything to get a sticker (which is what I use to motivate them). I'm telling you these kids will do anything for a Hannah Montana, Jonas Brothers, or High School Musical sticker. And my favorite little girl Laura almost hyperventilated when she found out I was a cheerleader in high school (cheerleaders are a uniquely American phenomenon which the rest of the world is fascinated by) and have an American Girl doll. So basically we get along just great!!

What keeps me doing during some of my longer days are the amazing weekends I spend in Madrid. There are no words to explain how amazing my roommates are and how much fun we have together! Basically we are so lucky because putting 7 strangers from 5 different countries together could potential be disastrous but for us it is the magic formula!!
Here are my roommates and I (starting from the left): Jordan from Calvin, Oklahoma; Gigi from Milan, Italy; me from the one and only K-Town; Gaby from France/Malaga, Spain; Saila from Finland; and Simón from France. Not pictured because she was sick is Maite who is from Bilbao, Spain. The amazing OU flag hanging in the background is because it was OU/TEXAS weekend in my apartment (more details about that amazing event to come later).

And I have met some really great people in my program as well who I have become good friends with! My favorite weekend activity so far is the "Sunday Food Club" which consists of a group of friends from my program who all love food (like me) and every Sunday we find a new restaurant and have an amazing meal. Its the only time I get to eat out and have a delicious, full meal. I love it!

The delicious Peruvian meal (Lomo Saltado) we ate a couple Sundays ago...bah I get hungry just looking at it.

My friend Amanda and I the next Sunday at an amazing Mexican restaurant called La Panza es Primera. Oh the nachos were sooo good! Mexican food is the thing I miss the most from the US so this meal was long overdue.
Amanda and I hanging out in Buen Retiro, the big park in Madrid. We had a picnic and were enjoying the perfect October day.

A group of friends from my program. We all went to Alcalá for a big festival celebrating Miguel de Cervantes. Fun night!

Madrid was a candidate city for the 2016 Olympics. Sadly we came in second (same as for the 2012 Olympics) but the Sunday before they announced the results there was a huge rally to show public support for the Olympics. There was a concert of a famous Spanish singer and lots of street performers and music, etc. It was really fun. A group of friends from my program went and we were joined by about 500,000 other people in a plaza that is very near to our apartment.

Our group in the yellow section.
We kept walking and ended up in the red section. Here we are using our colors to shield ourselves from the rain. The less than perfect weather didn't keep anyone from coming out to show their support for the olympics.
We finally ended up in the blue section where we belonged (note the color of all of our clothing).
The 500,000 people and their colors in the Plaza de Cibeles. We were in the very front of the blue section near the stage.

I know this post has been a little bit of everything. As always I will say that I will try to update more often but that always ends up being more difficult than I thought. Currently the only reason I had time to update this is because I am at home sick instead of at school. I have a very sore throat and fever. I am the 4th of the 7 people who live in my apartment to have the same symptoms. I am going to the doctor in a few hours so I will let you know if it is Swine Flu (just kidding). I am actually starting to feel a bit better but I'm still basically unable to talk and since I missed school I need to go to the doctor. If I felt like this in the US I don't think I would go to the doctor but since it is free (thanks to socialized healthcare) I will go. And don't worry Mom and Marmie, my roommates are taking good care of me. Maite came in to help me call the doctor since I couldn't really talk and Simón gave me some Vitamin C tablets to put in my water and they have all offered to do whatever I need. So I guess if I have to be sick in a foreign country without my mom at least I have 6 other people to help care for me.