Liebster Award Nomination

I was shocked earlier to receive a comment saying my blog had been nominated for something called the “Liebster Award”. I admit that I had absolutely no idea what a Liebster Award is, but hooray! This is my first award nomination here on WordPress. I did a little digging and found that the “Liebster Award” is to promote newer bloggers and hopefully allow them to gain followers and drive more traffic to their sites.

Look how shiny it is!

Look how shiny it is!

A big thank you to Courtney at Cartas de Courtney for the nomination! She is also living in Spain as a teaching assistant and I love reading her blog for travel ideas.

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THE RULES ARE:

ü 1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.

ü 2. Answer the 10 questions given to you by the nominee before you.

ü 3. Nominate 10 of your favorite blogs with fewer than 200 followers and notify them of their nomination.

ü 4. Come up with 10 questions for your nominees to answer.

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Nominations:

(Quick note: I know I must have chosen a few with over 200 followers).

The Rooted Traveller – Ghezal is another teaching assistant in BEDA, but I’ve been following her blog before my move to Spain. Funny how we met and became friends before knowing we were following each others blogs.

Sunshine and Siestas – Cat writes a lot about Seville which is one of my favorite cities in Spain. I found her blog before moving to Spain and it helped drive my desire to become an expat.

The Book of Ness – Vanessa’s blog is a mix of expat and entrepreneur posts.

Kaley…& Más – Kaley’s posts make me realize things which are true, but I never really considered before.

Lady in Spain – A fellow Marylander, Yari, really helped me when I was trying to make my way through the pile of paperwork needed for my visa to Spain.

The Expatriate Adventures – Dan is a fellow BEDA member who writes about his travels and life in Madrid.

Hola Yessica – Jessica’s blog is another I followed before I became an expat myself. Her posts are mainly about Barcelona.

Curiosity Travels – Jessica has a colorful and fun blog with plenty of posts about travel and teaching English in foreign countries.

Estrella Explores – Estrella is another English Language Assistant in Madrid and her blog is about her life abroad.

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1. What do you consider “home”?

For most of my life, Maryland was my only home since that is where much of my friends and family – my “roots” -, are located. After that, New York and Wisconsin were close contenders because I’ve visited many times to see family. During my first trip to Spain this idea of home was skewed. How could a place I had never been to before feel as comfortable as home? Right now I suppose I have two homes: My USA Home and Spain Home. I’m comfortable with that for now.

2. How long have you been traveling or living abroad?

The first time I traveled outside of the US (other than Canada) was to Guatemala when I was 17 years old. Before I was born my parents traveled all over the place and lived for a while in Guatemala. When we went, my family and grandparents spent Christmas and New Year’s there so we could see the village where they used to live and experience the country. My first trip to Europe was in 2011. After travelling with a friend in Spain I continued alone to Paris and Berlin. During this trip I was overcome with the insane idea to quit my job and move to Madrid. Somehow I made it a reality and have been living in Madrid since September 2012.

3. Do you have a favorite destination? If so, what is it?

I absolutely love Seville and Alicante. I have known Seville for longer and the atmosphere is amazing along with the sights. Alicante has great weather and beaches. It is much more relaxed than Madrid. Sometimes I consider moving to one of these cities for a change of pace.

4. What is your biggest struggle as a blogger?

Bah! I have two I constantly struggle with. One is that I don’t find it easy to be a creative writer. Sometimes I write something and think, “Seriously? That is the most boring and dry ‘ish’ I’ve ever seen. You should be ashamed of yourself.” The second problem I have is getting into a writing routine. I have an idea for a weekly piece, but I just haven’t gotten around to starting it.

5. What is your favorite blog and why?

At the moment, my favorite blog is Nowhere to Go but Everywhere for its beautiful photographs and simplistic style.

6. If you could spend a month anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?

A month in Thailand would be amazing. Send me to the sun and sand!

7. After being away, what is one thing you know you took for granted at home?

I have to choose being around nature. My old home was surrounded by three different bodies of water and a forest. Here in Madrid the atmosphere is very different and you can smell and feel it.

8. What is your favorite music to listen to during a plane ride/bus ride/commute?

If it’s on the AVE I listen to Telepopmusic or Thievery Corporation. This sounds strange, but the first trip I took on the AVE I was listening to those groups so now whenever I travel it’s my traveling music while watching the countryside.

During day-to-day commutes I listen to a playlist of over 500 different songs I have on Spotify. Chromeo and The Prodigy were made for Monday mornings in the metro.

9. Do you consider any certain item a “travel necessity”?

My travel-size toothbrush and toothpaste!

10. What is your favorite book and why?

It’s a strange book, but 1984 has been my favorite since I was a child. It’s so warped!

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New Questions for My Nominees:

1. What is your favorite blog right now?

2. What’s the strangest food you have ever eaten?

3. Do you have a favorite travel destination?

4. Now choose the song which bests describes that destination for you.

5. Describe a moment you decided to make a drastic change in your life.

6. If you were given 500 euros where would you go and what would you do?

7. Explain something you do well as a blogger? Then, describe something you struggle with.

8. What is one thing you found while traveling that you would bring back to your home country?

9. Were you ever in a dangerous or awkward situation during your travels?

10. Where do you see yourself ending up? Will you wander the globe forever?

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Thanks for reading and thanks again to Courtney for the nomination.

Happy Travels!

The World’s Getting Colder and I’m Getting Older

Brrrrr! It’s finally jacket weather in Madrid. Autumn is my favorite season, but eventually it gets cold enough where you don’t want to crawl out of bed, doesn’t it?

I know I haven’t written much in a while and it’s really bothering me. It’s not like I’m overworked. I’m teaching 6 private classes a week and I have fewer hours in the school this year (read: less money). You won’t hear me complain too much, because I have an amazing schedule. I’m only working in the school mornings and one afternoon Monday – Thursday. Yes, this means I have a three-day weekend every week!

Maybe all of this free time is making me a little restless about my career situation because I’ve been trying to figure out what I can do to attach myself somewhere permanently. Aside from regular positions I think about starting a business every day. I have a couple of ideas, but just can’t decide what I should do or where to really begin.

Last weekend I blew out some birthday candles which also probably led me to question my position here. At 27 I’m a bit older than the majority of people in the same teaching program. It’s good for now, but if I am going to stick around for a while I need to find something more concrete. Unfortunately, it’s a bit difficult for me to get a job in my degree field (Political Science) in Spain right now. I don’t know if I should be looking into getting a Masters here or in the U.S. Both options would take a lot of preparation before I could even apply.

On a more upbeat note, my birthday weekend fell on the puente and I visited Ávila for the first time. It’s only about an hours drive from Madrid so it’s a good choice for a day trip. The city is small, but beautiful and largely surrounded by walls. I read that work began on the walls in the 11th century. You can walk along a portion of the walls. The city is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Avila

Views from outside the walls

Avila

Views from outside the walls

Walls of Avila

Walls of Avila

Walls of Avila

Avila

We ate lunch a little outside of the city in a small town called Mingorría. There was so much food that afterwards I felt like I was waddling around Ávila. I think the chuletón is basically a big prime rib and the tostón was a cochinillo (roasted baby pig MMMM). If you look closely at the photo you can see my meal came with tail and foot!

chuletón and tostón

chuletón and tostón

There were signs for “Yemas de Ávila” everywhere. Yemas, egg yolks in Spanish, seem to be made with, you guessed it, egg yolks and a lot of sugar.  They are not my favorite, but they aren’t bad. I can only eat maybe one or two at a time.

Did you ever visit Ávila? What would you recommend doing there?

“It’s a Tough Way to Learn” or “When Crap Happens You Write a Blog Post”

Moving to Madrid is one of the most exciting and freeing things I have ever done. I know that I have grown here in ways I hadn’t in the US. The only trouble is that you often achieve this type of growth after facing some pretty tough situations.

Besides the obvious difficulty of balancing living expenses and entertainment with the salary of a Language Assistant, I’ve learned some things about safety and personal property.

While we were having the time of our lives in Morocco, someone was cleaning our apartment of electronics. My room didn’t lock from the outside with a key. There were two rings which I latched my luggage lock through. In theory, this may have worked if they didn’t have wire cutters for the rings. My laptop, Ipad, and external hard drive were gone when we returned along with thousands of dollars worth from three other roommates. Now I live in a room which locks with a key. We still don’t know who robbed us, but it’s possible that someone saw our posts on Facebook about being away for the puente. Also, the police told me that even if they found my things they couldn’t give them back to me since I didn’t have a copy of any of the IMEI numbers. After that, I’ve sent an email to myself with the IMEI for all my electronic devices.

Not long after that, I was sitting in a McDonald’s with some friends when two young boys came over to our table. The boys didn’t say anything, but they held out sheets of paper which made it look like they were asking for signatures. As soon as I saw them approach I placed my hand over my phone, which was on the table. One of the boys was standing next to my roommates when a friend of ours ran over to the other side of the table, grabbed the boys hand, and slapped my roommates phone out of it. They used the piece of paper to distract and cover the phone while the other hand grabbed the phone.

Now for my most recent experience. This past Friday my Samsung Infuse was stolen while I was in a bar in Sol. Sol is a notorious place for pickpockets since there are so many tourists. When you are there I would suggest to always keep your purse in front of you and closed. I believe I became too comfortable in the bar (and probably had too much to drink) and didn’t close my purse all the way. Within a span of about 30 minutes since the last time I had checked my phone, it was gone. On Saturday I went to the Yoigo stand and asked if it was possible to keep my old number. The woman there said it wasn’t. However, I talked with an agent at Yoigo today after I saw their website who said I should have told her I needed a copy made of my SIM card and then I could have kept my old number and saldo (amount of money I have left to use). Right now I have two numbers with saldo floating around because the agent told me it was not possible to transfer the saldo from my old number to my new number.

Now, I don’t really want to focus on the negatives so much as that I want to share some things worth noting for future or current teachers here. Be aware of your surroundings. Take precautions. We all know it’s common sense, but sometimes we may let our guard down….and others could take notice.

A way of coping with all of this has been to try to see these experiences as lessons. Okay, I definitely wish that there was an easier way to learn than this, but if you let it consume you it’s possible to end up paranoid or sick. Maybe you would even pack your bags and head back to wherever you used to call “home.” After our apartment was robbed I was so devastated I became ill for several days. I found the main emotion I felt wasn’t even sadness, but anger. I wanted nothing more than to find whoever was responsible and pummel them with the blunt end of SOMEthing in a “How dare you come into my home, where I sleep, and take my things!” kind of way. When it comes down to it I just have to think, “I’m tough and I can handle this. Now let’s make sure it never happens again.”

Suspending My Disbelief for a Moment

Hello all!

I’m really sorry I’ve been incognito for a while. I made it through skydiving! I have been dealing with a few personal things….yeah.. I’m not going to go into it so much, but this past Monday I finally received the confirmation that there is nothing left for me here to hang on to. My flight for Madrid leaves on September 4th!

 

I am still in disbelief.

 

Everyone who needs to know at work now knows. I’m so lucky that they have been so supportive. Today, my manager told me that he was talking about replacing me anyway…. but because I was almost certainly about to be promoted to a new position I had applied for. Oh well.

I have to write my letter of resignation tonight, but I really have no idea where to start! There are so many feelings and thoughts running through my mind right now. I’m also worried about when I should actually tell my students that I’m leaving. I don’t want it to turn into some kind of crazy countdown. O_o

 

I guess I should let all of my friends know and plan some sort of bon voyage party, right?

Travel theme: Night

Gallery

Here’s my try at this weeks theme posed by Ailsa.

This week, the theme is “Night” and the first thing that came to mind was Seville and the performances we witnessed and the smell of jasmine (one of my absolute favorite scents) which seemed especially strong at night in some places.

I loved this mural. Doesn’t it look like the man and the goat have history together the way the man is eyeing the goat so cautiously?

Inside the building with the mural, we watched a wonderful performance.

We never made it into Metropol Parasol, but they really did look like giant mushrooms.

This spot definitely seemed to be more of a local hangout. Anyone could get up and dance.

Puente de Triana over the Guadalquivir River.

If you also participated in Ailsa’s theme I would love to see what you chose.

BEDA Classes

Hello everyone!

I’ve received my BEDA Group assignment and I’m in Group 6. Who else is with me!? Don’t be shy now.

Also, I received the contact info for the coordinator at the school where I’ll be teaching. I sent her an email to introduce myself and to ask about the age range of my future students. It turns out I’ll be teaching 12 through 17 year-olds! Now, I’ll be honest here. I am pretty nervous about this. I’m much more comfortable teaching people around my age or much older. That’s what I’ve been doing for several years and in a few different places. I’ve always been the young girl with all of the older friends. Or the youngest girl in the office. That sort of thing is natural for me. Understanding children is not, but I am excited about discovering how.

Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Children kind of freak me out. Please don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t like children. I just get all super awkward whenever it’s time to interact with them. I’ve always felt a bit of jealousy for the people who can just go right up any child and attach and engage themselves with them. It seems to be a gift. It’s a good thing a bit of nervousness is healthy! Please pay no attention to any future kid-phobia freakout manifestations. I know I can do it. I might just have to work at it harder than most. This will definitely help push me out of my comfort zone; teaching children, a new country, a new language, a new life.

Something funny happened today. I received another Auxiliares de Conversación email today which informed me I was still “admitida.” However, I was asked not to be discouraged since they were making placements from the wait-list which began around application number 1404. The reason I found this a bit humorous is because when I applied I’m pretty sure my application number was 5,000 something. Yep, don’t worry. I won’t be discouraged. I’m super happy BEDA worked out!

If anyone has any tips, tricks, or suggestions on what to expect in this 12 to 17 age group PLEASE feel free to add your input! I’m kind of starting at square one here.

Euro Venture 2011 Pt. I Spain “Just Getting There is Half the Struggle”

The next several posts will outline some of the highlights and hilarity of my first trip to Europe. 



As I briefly mentioned HERE, I signed up to teach English for a week on a resort in beautiful La Alberca through a program named PUEBLO INGLES. When I applied I linked the program site to a few of my friends and asked if anyone wanted to join me. After all, adventures on foreign continents are more fun with others. Right?? I was delighted to see my Penpal from Australia accepted my travel challenge. Now, I have known my Penpal since I was 11 years old, but never met her in person at this point. We began to plan our vacation while about 10,360 miles apart. The plan was for her to travel several weeks through the United Kingdom until a couple of days before the Pueblo Ingles program when we would both fly to Madrid. There, we would finally meet. Everyone I mentioned this plan to was in disbelief or made comments about  it sounding like a movie. Maybe one day.


The morning of my first transatlantic flight, I was still frantically trying to figure out what I could fit in my luggage. Apparently, I tried to pack more clothes than I could squash into my suitcase. We were pressed for time so I ended up throwing items onto my bed until I could close it. We had a two-hour drive ahead of us to the airport. My mom bid me a tearful farewell at Dulles Airport and I was on my way. Thankfully, Aer Lingus flies directly from Washington, D.C. to Madrid. My flight landed at 7:30am (Spain time) in the morning. I was meeting my Penpal in the hostal around 3pm so I knew I had plenty of time to myself. I decided to take the metro from the airport, in the east, to the hostal near the Opera station, in the west. I found out quickly there are no escalators in Madrid’s metro so be warned if you plan on lugging two bags and a suitcase from one end of the city to the other (like I did). Instead of escalators, there are stairs! Lots of stairs. 


Lesson One:  You have to work your legs to get around the Madrid Metro system.


By the time I emerged from the station I was tired, warm, and sweating, but I will never forget that moment. 


I am not sure why I expected my first glimpse of a street in Madrid to be anything like streets back in Maryland cities with their asphalt and tall, modern buildings. I was absolutely blown away with what I saw. Low buildings, scrolled metal for the windows and balconies, and terracotta roofs? I really hope no one saw me smiling like a crazy person. 


Next, I had to find my hostal. I knew the name of the street I needed, but not the direction or how to get to that street. The streets jutted out in different directions and I couldn’t find street names for half of them. Many seemed more like alleys than streets. I was able to practice my broken Spanish to get some directions. Thankfully, after that, I was able to maneuver my way to the correct street. At least I thought it was the correct street, but still did not see my hostal. I approached the only human on that section of the street at that hour other than me. He seemed to be a backpacker (i.e. wore a large backpack and sunglasses). 


“Excuse me. Do you know where Hostal Gala is?”


He pointed up.


Okay, well, that was a bit embarrassing. The only sign was on the top story of the building right behind me. I hurried inside hoping to find an elevator of some kind. I was greeted with beautiful stairs. I started to drag my two bags plus suitcase up those stairs. About halfway a woman,who was descending the stairs, came back up to me. 


“Tuyo?” She pointed to a dark lump on the stairwell behind us. It looked like a piece of cloth.


“Oh! No…. No, pero gracias.” 


She continued her way downstairs. I set my things down and stepped over to the lump for a better look. That’s my shirt! I peered further down near the entrance and spotted another cloth wad on the ground which turned out to be another shirt. After grabbing both I rushed back to my suitcase and tilted it so I could view underneath. It was split open! I saw shirts, socks, and a pants leg poking out from the bottom. WHAT exactly did I drop all over the airport, metro, and neighborhood!???


Lesson Two: Invest in luggage straps. 


By the time I reached the receptionist I was tired, sweaty and smelled so, and felt numb to the world. It was almost 9am by this point, but the room wouldn’t be ready until 3pm. I launched into babbling a bit about my luggage and that I was just going to sit and wait in the lobby area. I’m not sure what the receptionist thought of me, but I’m sure she has seen some crazy spectacles before. I bought myself a Coke from a machine and pulled out my iPod to check my email. Should I assess the damage and tally my missing belongings? No. I forced myself not to look. I just sat, and sipped, and waited. 


Luckily, my room was finished early so I was able to take a shower and rest before my Penpal arrived. It was a very clean and cute room. It even had a little balcony.

Have you ever been to a country or place which turned out to be completely different from what you expected? Do you ave any travel horror stories? 

When it becomes real…

I learned two things today. First, I have about three months until I move to another continent and country. Second, today is the day my family realized I am completely serious.

I was sitting at my desk when I realized I only have a few more months left. I’ve been selected as a recruit for the technical training staff. Basically, if I pass the three-day training this week, there is a high chance that I will be asked to instruct others in how to do my job. With this came the realization that even if I do accept the offer, I will only have the opportunity to instruct for a few months or so before I leave. Do I take the offer? I imagine Technical Instructor looks pretty good on a resume / C.V. To be quite honest, along with the moment of realization, I froze at my desk in thought. I have so many things to accomplish for the move and not much time. I should be doing more research about the move now, but I’m writing this post instead. I wish I could find a flat before I leave. I don’t want to agree to anything before I actually see the place, so this leaves me in a bit of a predicament. This entire thing has been a lesson in letting go…

Today, my mom asked me if I was actually serious about moving. When I told her I was it seemed that she never thought I would actually go through with it. As you can imagine, she did not take the news well. It’s difficult when you set a path and your family doesn’t support you. Every day, I hear something from my mom about how I am making the wrong choice; about how Spains economy is tanked or another passive-aggressive pity plea. Thankfully, my dad doesn’t say anything. I know what he is thinking though when he turns his face when he hears my mom talking to me. Is this a mistake? Maybe, but I’d like to think not. If for some unforeseen reason I actually loathe my time in Spain, I’d like to consider this as the time I did what I wanted for myself even when my emotions and logic warred inside me. Moving alone to a foreign country, quitting a government job to accept a job that pays four times less…of course it seems crazy, but I would be crazy to wait.

For those of you who rooted far from where they sprouted, how did you deal with the reaction to your choice? Did you ever choose to cancel your move? If so, Are you happy with the way things turned out? Do you regret it?

Memorial Day Musings

Today is Memorial Day, and it is the first day in a long while I did not need to set a wake-up alarm. I forgot how good it feels to wake up naturally.

I have not done a whole lot today. I found a WWII article online about my Grandfather’s time as a glider pilot in Burma so I read it to my mom. Other than that, I’ve been cleaning and organizing. I have all of my Spain documents in one folder now. I realized that I need to start working on acquiring the visa soon. Thanks to Lady in Spain, I now have a better idea of some of the steps I need to go through for certification and that pesky Apostille of The Hague Convention. Right now, I need to work on getting my medical certificate notarized and then I will get the Apostille slapped on everything. Eeeep!

Now, another thing I am trying to decide is whether I should become CELTA certified. If I do, I don’t know whether I should try to do that here in the States or if I should wait until I’m in Madrid. Cambridge seems to have a heavy-duty certification program. Hmmm….

I’m also trying to scope out International Organizations in Madrid. This is probably the Political Science/International Affairs degree talking, but I’d like to get involved somehow with organizations overseas. Who knows? Maybe it would open up some future working opportunities where I’m a bit more qualified.

* Visa Requirements

* “I’m Not a Criminal” Record

* Certification and Apostille Information

Life and Letters

This new project I’m on at work is stressful, but allows me to be the “type A”, masochistic personality I apparently thrive on. I’ve already worked six hours of overtime this week. Well, there is one thing I’m lacking. Wine. Okay, maybe also sleep, but they both sort of go hand-in-hand. So, before belly dance classes tonight I’ve decided I will grab a couple bottles. Did I mention we have one more week to learn our new choreography? We will be performing the first week in June. 🙂

I received an email this morning from the BEDA program and it contained the official letter for auxiliares. We will get our class group assignments next week. The letter contained information about our wage, what we will be doing in the program, and information about our insurance coverage. It looks like I have some studying to do. Is anyone familiar with UMAS-CASER?