year one

Even after a year of living abroad it’s hard to believe this is my reality. Some days I wake up and almost explode of happiness. You know that super cliche quote something like, “take a chance, you never know how perfect something could turn out to be” that’s my life.

This isn’t an emotional goodbye Spain post because I’ll be back in September for another year, but a little glimpse into the highs and lows of my life in Spain.

Highs:

People. Moving 4000 miles away from home isn’t easy by any means but the transition was cushioned by the amazing people who have welcomed me with open arms and treated me like one of their own. This starts with all the professors at school, to Ana and her family, to the man who owns the fruit stand and greets me every night as I walk home. I go to the grocery store and am greeted by half a dozen “Hhhhello Gabby!” From students and I can’t help but smile. My Spanish families—yes plural. First and foremost Ana and her daughters. I really don’t have sufficient words in English or Spanish to thank them for their kindness. The families where I teach private classes in the afternoon are the absolute sweetest and those kids feel like little brothers and sisters. Also big shout out to the moms that prepare a snack for me. The answer is yes, I’ll always eat the food you offer.

Travel. 4 new countries and over 20 new cities that I fell in love with. From day trips to long weekends, I’ve really been able to enjoy and experience what each place has to offer. I’ve eaten croissants in Paris, rode the underground in London, felt overwhelmed in the presence of God in Rome and eaten/drank my way through Spain. My teachers tease me that I’ve been to more cities in Spain then they have visited. Hah! Ok who should be teasing who in this situation?!

Spanish. whoa my Spanish has improved this year.. Drastically. I remember arriving in Madrid and almost had a panic attack because I couldn’t understand that they were saying to me. How could I study Spanish for nearly 10 years and I couldn’t understand “Spain Spanish” (castellano)? Now I crack my friends and teachers up by saying different common Spanish phrases. They also can’t help but giggle if I say a Spanish swear word ☺️. Andaluz Spanish where they drop all endings off words—not a problem. Spanish phone contract, apartment contract, Spanish taxes-so many new words to add to my vocabulary list.

Lows:

People. I haven’t encountered mean or bad people but some just have a bad attitude. Maybe it to foreigners or maybe just Americans haha. I can tell when someone has shut me down before I’ve said two words. They think they won’t understand my Spanish or don’t even try to make an effort. *eyeroll* But the number of good, nice, welcoming spainards outnumbers the other by a long shot.

Travel. No, I’m not complaining about being able to see and experience the world but the process of that is sometimes exhausting. I’ve lost count of the delayed planes, missing buses, and metro strikes that make traveling more frustrating. But in the end, I made it home every time and my bed never felt better.

Spanish. yes I consider myself fluent, but there are still times where I feel like I can’t completely express myself. I also need to be more aggressive because spainards like to cut me off. Also I need to help spaniards better understand sarcasm, the humor gets lost in translation.

I think that wraps up year one. It just keeps getting better

Passport to Paris

I had joked with my friends that I wanted to do everything that Mary Kate and Ashley did in their film: Passport to Paris, and I think we might have actually done more. .. Actually quite confident because over this 90min film, nothing really happens except that the movie was filmed in Paris.

Friday morning airport arrival, train to city center, metro to 13th district where we were staying. Drop bags off, and head out to eat lunch. We spontaneously decide to take a bike tour and 16 metro stops later we greeted a woman on a bike with a flag outside the metro. We asked if it was too late, and she replied no. So we got our bikes and our rain ponchos because there was a haunting dark cloud above us. We first saw the Military Academy where Napoleon trained. Then we biked around and saw some of the different districts. Fun fact: each district has to hold an outdoor market twice a week. A few rain drops later, we rode past a church that one of the King Louis to use, it might have been the sun King. Some other famous places we saw: the Place de la Concorde: where King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were executed, the Lourve, Musee d’Orsay, and the final destination: Eiffel Tower.

The Eiffel Tower was built as the entrance for the 1889 World’s Fair. Shortly after realizing they didn’t budget correctly, Paris asked Mr. Eiffel for some extra cash money. He provided with the condition that it would remain under his ownership for 20 years in order to gain his money back. He sold tickets to the top and made his money back in 6 months. (Now where does the money go?!) This is one of the sights that has really taken my breath away in Europe. Pictures really do not do it justice. We rode the elevator to the top to get a birds eye view of Paris. From the top we could see the entire city. Breathtaking #blessed.

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Day 2

The Lourve. Because this building was originally a fortress with over 8.5 miles of corridors, we allotted ourselves a few hours to see the masterpieces. Now, I am not the biggest art aficionado but how could I go to Paris and not see the Mona Lisa? Spoiler: its small. Like really small.   We saw some of the sculptures and some other famous pieces before we were completely exhausted and needed lunch. Lunch. Walking past the Opera Building where The Phantom of the Opera was filmed, and crepes. Ohh I’ve been day dreaming of crepes. We walked past Notre Dame. As it started to rain, we got the brilliant idea to enter the church to escape the rain, however every other tourist had the same idea and the line extended outside. Next. We arrived to Musee d’Orsay exactly one minute after the last tickets were sold. Bummer. We metro-ed to Champs-Elysées, realized we didn’t have enough money to actually shop at Cartier, Louis Vitton, and Hermés. Then we saw the Arc de Triomphe. We went to Montmartre to see Sacré Coeur and walked around the adorable neighborhood. We waited to get into a super cool and Trip Advisor approved fondue restaurant. Coolest thing about the restaurant: baby bottle wine. LOL

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Sunday was a rainy day full of travel back to Torrijos to prepare things for school and another weekend trip.  I can’t wait to return again!

London Trilogy: Part II

After day one of my fantasy Harry Potter trip, I had some more sites to check off my London List.

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First stop: Tour of Westminister Abbey. Sorry, no photos allowed and I even tried, but it was a little more difficult to play the “ignorant, confused tourist” because they are able to yell at me in my native language. This is where Kate Middleton became a princess and married Will. Also and maybe more notably, this is where Elizabeth I, Henry VII, and Mary, Queen of Scots, are buried. Now at this point in my European adventure, I think I’ve seen over a dozen cathedrals and churches but I still am amazed at each one. It’s not just ABC (Another Boring Church) but a real work of art and an incredible representation of a country’s religion and faith.

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My sister had a preplanned tour of the Houses of Parliament and since I barely understand politics in the US, I wasn’t even going to try and understand another country’s political structure. So I got back on the underground, “minded the gap” (bad London underground joke) and headed towards the Tower of London and the London Bridge. Spoiler Alert: contrary to popular belief, the London Bridge is not falling down.

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After a classic lunch of fish and chips, I started walking to St. Paul’s Cathedral. I think this Cathedral was one of the most impressive I have seen, but not quite as impressive as St. Peter’s in the Vatican. I spent some time looking at all the chapels but I spent most of my time climbing up the 528 stairs to the top of the dome. There are three different levels of the dome you can visit. The first is to the top of inside of the dome. Here you are still inside the dome and look down into the main altar. The second level, you are outside and look out upon London. The third level is the highest point of the dome. Here it’s a little tight as there isn’t a lot of room to move around the balcony. The sights are incredible and the fear of heights is even greater. I’m not one to usually be afraid of heights, but after about 5 minutes, I was ready to be back on firm ground.  Going down 528 winding stairs could make anyone dizzy and nauseous, and my cure was an ice cream cone at the shop across the cathedral.

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I walked all they way up to the tiny balcony above the big dome

I headed back to meet my sister and her friend at Westminster Abbey for afternoon mass. However, since I wasn’t able to meet up with her before, I just assumed she and her friend were sitting somewhere else in the church. Maybe it was the lack of my Spanish siesta, a filling lunch, or fatigue from climbing 528 stairs but that service, I experienced a major fight with gravity and my eyelids, to the point where I jumped a bit when the bells rang to conclude the service. As I was searching for my sister, I realized she was already at our established meeting point and she reminded me that I was late. But I quickly responded that we both should be late because we both just got out of mass. She laughed and said she didn’t go. UGH Classic sister mixup

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*view from the top of St. Pauls*

We went out to dinner, headed back to the hotel, and started getting ready for a night out at Picadilly Circus. We went out with her whole study abroad group, and I have never felt more like a mom. Back to the glory days I guess, but I blamed the long day and 10 miles registered on my fitbit as a reason to head back to the hotel at midnight.

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We had planned to visit Buckingham Palace early Sunday morning before my afternoon flight out but after hitting the snooze button three times, I decided I would just look at the pictures my sister took. Because little did I know, I would have a long journey ahead of me back to the airport.   To be continued…

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When was the last time someone actually memorized a phone number? 2005?!

London Trilogy: Part I

I went to London in January.  A three day trip deserves a three part blog.  

PART I: Harry Potter Heaven

Perhaps my excitement and anticipation for this day has been building since my Grandpa took me to see the first Harry Potter film in theaters at the 10:00pm show, because midnight was past both of our bedtimes. I know that I still have the ticket stub hanging on my builtin board back at home.  🙂  But I’ve always been in love with Harry Potter and the magic that it provides for both children and adults alike.

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Day 1: I arrive in London Stansted: the budget airline airport, took the train to the center of the city and met up with my sister. YES, MY SISTER-woohoo. It was honestly one of the coolest things to meet up with my sister in another country, that’s what I absolutely love about traveling. After a quick breakfast and dropping my bag off in her hotel room, I headed out to do some exploring. Another positive thing about having my sister in London–she was staying at a 4star hotel, and I can tell you my assistant teacher budget will never permit me to see the inside of another 4 star hotel. Wow, clean sheets every morning and more importantly that I don’t have to put them on myself is always a nice treat. After lunch I boarded the Harry Potter bus on my voyage to the mothership. The studio where they filmed the movies is in Leavesden, about an hour and a half outside of London.

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It’s a self-guided tour and you can add the audio option with the really attractive headphones. Of course, I did that to get the full experience and soak up as much as I possibly could. We saw the sets that they used in the film including; the cupboard under the stairs, the Great Hall, the Gryffindor dormitory, Hagrid’s Hut, and more. It was incredible to say the least! The detail is absolutely astonishing and I can’t even fathom the amount of time that was spent on these giant works of art. Every hairpiece, every costume and all the props were displayed. Spoiler alert: Daniel Radcliff is very short and I’m fairly confident he wears a smaller pant size than I do.

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*my wish was that those people wouldn’t be in my photo*

You can easily loose yourself as you are completely absorbed by everything around you. You can board the Hogwarts Express, drink a Butterbeer, walk through Diagon Alley and visit Olivander’s to get your very own wand. The Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio could be it’s own little city and it’s completely mesmerizing. It was a dream come true to see my favorite fictional place become a reality. A London must-do if you are a true HP fan.

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unfortunately this isn’t life size, but it’s still pretty cool

5 things Spain is doing right

Awhile ago I posted about some things that I missed about America.  This is the follow-up post talking about some things that the US could learn from Spain.

  1. Jamon.  Need I say more?! Rumor is that God didn’t rest on the 7th day, he created jamon Serrano.
  2. Walking.  Everywhere. This is why everyone in this country is so skinny. It helps that I live in a small town and I walk to every one of my private classes, but I average 8 miles a day.
  3. Commercial breaks during television. They don’t occur every five minutes or every change of scene; however you will have a 5 minute break halfway through the show. It’s the perfect break during a show to run to the bathroom or grab an ice cream from the freezer.
  4. Dryer racks in the cabinets. I don’t mind washing the dishes but I really dislike drying the dishes. Spain genius engineers have designed cabinets above the sink where you leave the dishes to dry on their own. I guess we don’t need this in the US if we have dishwashers, but it’s one of my favorite things about my apartment.

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And possibly the most ironic thing about this country is the division between old and new; modern and old-fashioned. This is best demonstrated through chip-pin-credit cards and bank books.

  1. Europe is more advanced than the US with their credit cards. Every card here is chip-pin, which means that you insert your card in a machine and enter your pin. Cards like these are now just being introduced into the US. On the contrary, when I go to the bank to make a deposit or transfer money for rent, I have to present my bank book. It’s a little book that tracks all the transactions from my account. Also there is one man who works at my bank. ONE MAN. Talk about old fashioned-he knows me by name when I walk in. Now that’s customer service.

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So, there’s a glimpse into my simple happy Spanish life. Come on over and visit anytime

Fairy Tale Segovia

Climb mountains {or bell towers} not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world.

 

Segovia is a perfect day trip from Madrid full of culture, history, and beautiful sights.

I took the early morning train to Madrid and hopped on a bus to Segovia. I could write a song or love poem about how much I love Spanish public transportation. Name a place in Spain and I can find a way there by public transport, I dare you.

 

First stop: Roman Aqueduct. This is notably one of the most recognizable image that represents Segovia. Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, this site dates back to the first century. It has been reconstructed but there was no change to the original work or style. It’s built of unmortared brick blocks. The water flows through the upper section.

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Second stop in Segovia: Plaza Mayor aka the main Plaza. I’m 99.9% sure that every city in Spain has a main plaza. I really fell in love with Segovia’s Plaza Mayor, maybe because they were starting to decorate for Christmas. Spanish balconies and terraces are real house goals. Add that to my wish list for my future house: nice terrace looking over the main plaza.

 

The main attraction: Segovia Cathedral. This Gothic Cathedral was constructed between 1525-1577 and is the last Gothic Cathedral in Spain. The dome is not original to the structure because of a fire. That’s why the new dome is not particularly the Gothic style. Take the tour to learn all the history behind this incredible piece of history. Spend the extra 2€ to take the Bell Tower tour but make sure you have good shoes on. The ascend up is around 250 winding stairs. Nothing makes you feel worse then when you are huffing and puffing up the stairs while the 70-year old guide is taking the steps two at a time, and he does it 3 times a day. There we saw where the bell ringer lived and went up to the tower where the bells are located. BREATH-TAKING sights of the entire city. A must-do in Segovia.

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view from the top ain’t too shabby

Next Stop: The Alcazar. This is one of the most famous castles in Spain and was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle. It was originally built as a fortress but has served as a royal palace, a state prison, a Royal Artillery College and a military academy. It’s currently a museum. Famous monarchs who have called this place home include: King Alfonso VIII, King Alfonso X, Queen Isabella I, King Philip II.

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Lunch time–a Segovian specialty: cochinillo asado y judias blancos. (translation: roast baby pig and white beans) Probably not my favorite Spanish dish, but very tasty.

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This has been one of my favorite cities in Spain and I’m sure I’ll be back to do some more sightseeing and exploring.

#auxiliarprobs

We love our job–most of the time–but there are certain things that I’m sure every auxiliary in Spain has experienced.

  1. Our little robot students. – I walk into class everyday and ask, “How are you?” and they respond in unison, “I’m fine thanks, and you?”  I’m pretty sure emotions and feelings are taught in primary, so in secondary they should be able to respond independently and have original responses by now.
  2. Estuche (pencil case).  –Spanish children’s most treasured possession is their sacred estuche/pencil case. It’s not only a pencil case but also a weapon that they use to constantly hit their partner, or their favorite object to play hide and seek with. This isn’t just an average pencil case with pens and pencils, but it’s filled with glue sticks, scissors, rules, protractor and compass. It’s a constant distraction as I consistently ask my students and myself why they are playing around with scissors during a conversation activity. Ni idea.
  3. Tipp-ex (white out).  –Note taking in class takes an eternity and a half. The main reason is because they are obsessed with their tipp-ex or white out correction tape. Student A spells a word wrong, they take their white out tape, cover the error, wait for it to dry, and write over the tape. Now that process takes about 10x longer than just crossing out the word or writing over the mistake would take. And it’s a big game when someone finishes a roll because they use the ribbon as a jump rope, handcuffs, necklaces, you name it, I’ve confiscated that garbage and thrown it in the trash. Or as my students would say, “the rubbish bin”.tipp-ex
  4. British English.  –So we are teaching British English to the students and I’m not exaggerating that I have to rely on some of the pictures in the book to let me know what the word means.  Like what is candy floss? At first I thought they had invented a new fun and tasty way to floss your teeth.  But then a student showed me the picture in the book.  It’s cotton candy FYI.  I can’t even describe my shock and how appalled I was when the male teacher asked me for a rubber??!! He was looking for an eraser for a pencil.  We then went into a cultural explanation of what a rubber means in American English.  He then understood my surprise.
  5. Common Spanish/English translation errors.  –Learning a second language is hard, I know.  But there are some things that make me cringe as a teacher when I hear them.  For example, “I have 13 years old.”  or “You can write it on the board?” And if I hear the word “interesting” one more time, I’ll go loca.  It’s their favorite adjective; How was your weekend? -Interesting.  How was the movie? -Interesting.  Describe your best friend. -Interesting.  Well, I guess their lives are very interesting.

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    the “be” verb is difficult.

  6. Awkward compliments from your students.  –14 year old boys are pretty suave.  Between trying to keep your social media a secret so they don’t find you and rejecting them every chance you get at school.  You do have to admire their effort.  “Gabby will you be my girlfriend? I love you.” I respond, “Umm how old are you?”  His response, “Love knows no age.”
  7. Oh you’re American, so you know everything about American pop culture?!  –I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been asked about Route 66.  It’s like Spaniards have some weird obsession with it.  They hate driving more than 4 hours in car but for some reason a multiday road trip across the country sounds like a good idea.  Also I try to avoid saying, “What do you mean?” in class because then they will erupt in unison singing Justin Bieber’s new song.  Also stay away from saying, “What else?” because then they will tell you that’s what George Clooney says in his nespresso commercial.  george-nespresso

 

At the end of the day, I just can’t help but smile and think that these little spaniards are changing my life.  And I hope I’m changing theirs too!

 

Alright auxiliars, what are some other things you have encountered?? No matter who I talk to in Galicia, Madrid, Sevilla it’s like we are all having a similar experience in the classroom.  El mundo es un panuelo.