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. II Spain “Try Not to Be an Idiot Foreigner Next Time”

This is a continuation of the story here. It’s been interesting how many details I’ve remembered while writing these posts. Hopefully having them here will be a good way for me to remember the little bits.


After my morning journey to the hostal and jet lag beginning to kick in I found myself completely exhausted. I showered and napped for a while until I couldn’t ignore my stomach and my hunger. I roused myself to make myself Madrid-presentable. Both adapters shot sparks around the room when I tried to plug anything into them. After that, they both seemed to be completely worthless. That’s the last time I buy from that Amazon seller. 


While out wandering the streets, I found myself at a chain called “Casa del Jamón“, or “Mundo del Jamón“, or something like that. The serrano and melon hit the spot, but the waiter raised an eyebrow when I ordered vino tinto AND cafe together. 

“Urr…” It seemed he was looking for a polite way to tell me I was an idiot foreigner. “Just to let you know… Most people prefer to drink their cafe after the meal. It is best that way.”

“Oh, yes, I understand. It’s just I have terrible jet lag right now and I’m afraid I will fall asleep if I do not drink it sooner.”

“I see. Really, it is best after the meal. Are you certain?” 


In the end, I drank my wine and coffee at the same time. 

Don’t worry. I won’t do that again. 

Jamón hanging from the ceilings! I think I like this country.



After I found some replacement chargers for my camera and iPod I headed back to the hostal to wait for my Penpal to arrive. I was nervous. What if this person I’ve known for years is crazy? What if she is totally different from what I imagined? Will we kill each other? Eventually, I heard an Australian accent drifting from the reception area. I shyly opened the door and went out to greet her. 


It was wonderful to finally meet her. I think we were both a little shy around each other at first while we both tried to figure the other out. She told me stories about her weeks of travel before meeting me in Spain. I told her about how I arrived at the hostal. We both shared our excitement about the upcoming program. We are quite different from each other. She seemed straight-to-the-point and bold whereas I believe I tend to be more shy and keep my feelings inside. 


We explored the area around our hostal that night. The streets were absolutely full of people. I remember wondering whether this was a very popular part of the city, but later I realized that people seem to take to the streets everywhere! 


We found some interesting things like giant balls where you were supposed to write your dreams on a sheet of paper and then drop it into a slot in the ball. We also found the Desigual store. Sometimes I wish I could pull off wearing all of their crazy creations…


A nice sentiment, no?






Our first dinner together was entertaining. My friend doesn’t really speak or understand Spanish so I found myself doing the ordering and translating even though my Spanish abilities were pretty horrible. In the end, we ordered and ate about six different delicious offerings of tapas. 



The next morning, we visited the Palacio Real. I wish I could illustrate how beautiful the interior is, but we were not allowed to take any photos. All I have are photos of the outside. 




In the afternoon, we travelled to Casa Patas for our program orientation. The “Anglos” enjoyed a flamenco show, paella, and the company of the people they would be spending most of their next eight days and nights with. The newcomers and program veterans all spoke excitedly about what was to come. The next morning we would all file onto a bus for a four-hour trip to La Alberca. 

Travel Theme: Art

Gallery

Here’s my response to this weeks challenge created by Alisa.

It took me a while to decide which of my photos represented art to me. I feel like I saw so many wonderful pieces of art while I was in Europe and I couldn’t figure out which to choose!

In the end, I chose a few photos of street art in Paris. They aren’t exactly something you would find in the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay, but I think they capture a beauty and whimsy of their own. Some are downright creepy, but others made me smile instantly. These street pieces all evoked some sort of emotion or thought from me.

Let’s see something that you believe best describes art and why!

Stuff like this was everywhere!

I would love a spaceship and giant bandage on the side of my house.

I had to add this one for the creepy factor.

How cool is this?

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? 

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

Does Anyone Know A Good Psychiatrist?

Sometimes I need to ask myself whether I am a lunatic. I say this because I know I am about to do something that most “sane” people would consider absolutely bonkers. 

I’ll explain, but I should probably start at the beginning.

I was always been a little “off” as a child. When I was young I wanted saree bed comforters, Moroccan lamps, and Japanese ink painting kits. Fast forwarding to college, I wanted to study abroad in Spain, and after graduation, teach English in Japan. Neither dreams worked out (oh, the things young people do in relationships). A short while after graduation, I found a site called Matador Travel which really does a marvelous job of fueling my wanderlust. An entry about an English teaching experience in Spain caught my attention and I ended up applying to a program called Pueblo Ingles. I was accepted! Sadly, I was working at a low-paying job (ie restuarant) and was saddled with a fair amount of credit card debt coming out of college. I knew I wouldn’t have the funds to take the kind of trip I hoped without sending my credit debt to abysmal depths. Luckily, I started a government job and eventually decided to apply to the program again. As soon as I received my acceptance email for October 2011, I began planning for a trip spanning Spain, France, and Germany. 

Pueblo Ingles was honestly one of the most fabulous experiences I’ve had, but there is too much to say for this post. Maybe I’ll evetually post some stories and pictures about that month in Europe. My time in Spain was amazing. I met my Australian pen-pal of 14+ years for the first time in Madrid. We both completed the program in La Alberca. She and I then travelled to Sevilla and Granada before heading back to Madrid. 

This is when I began struggling with the notion of my sanity. The entire time I was in Spain, it was where I wanted to be. When I continued on to Paris and Berlin I still had a wonderful (and memorable) time, but I missed Spain. When I returned home I missed Spain. It became a habit. Hear Spanish? Miss Spain. Someone asks about the trip? Miss Spain…and then excitedly relay a story from the trip. Seven months after the program I still miss Spain which has led me to decide to live there for a while. My plan is to stay at least a year and preferably at least three years. After three years I think I should be fairly fluent in Spanish. I should also have a good idea of whether I want to continue living there. 

“Yes, the Spanish economy is not doing well. Yes, I’m 25 and have a well-paying government job right now. No, you are right. It doesn’t make sense.” I feel like I have various versions of that conversation every day now.

I believe I am finally coming to terms with my decision. This is probably the reason for this post! Once you make your ideas public they become more real….