Salamanca-visiting after two years!

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Last weekend I took a weekend trip to Salamanca…the city where I studied abroad 2 years ago! I wanted to make sure I visited this city while I was here in Spain because it’s so close to Logroño! I also never thought I would go back there so it was really special to visit all the places we went to and remember all the memories I have of those summer months!

We traveled to Burgos in the morning to spend some time there and to take the train from Burgos to Salamanca. Long story short…we missed our train from Burgos to Salamanca because of some google maps confusion and a recent change of train stations to a new larger one way outside the city! But with the no pasa nada attitude intact my friend and I made it to the station and got our tickets fixed and were eventually on our way to Salamanca three hours later!

As soon as we stepped off the train in Salamanca I knew exactly where we were and was able to navigate through the city to find our hostel! We ended up getting this very cheap hostel right on the Plaza Mayor! When I say that I mean our room had a view of the Plaza!! It was so crazy but such a nice surprise!

 

 

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After living in Logroño this city seemed like it was FULL of students! I didn’t realize it while I was studying there but it does have a younger population while Logroño has more families and older people! You also hear more English and other foreign languages everywhere! We enjoyed being tourists and walking around to see all the major sites! Our favorite place to be though was the Plaza Mayor! We spent many hours sitting at cafes people watching the day away!! We also had perfect weather the whole weekend which allowed us to spend the majority of our time outside!!

We went to my favorite gelato place in the Plaza and visited a few new cafes and restaurants! Since I never really ate out and went to many cafes while in the city it was a different perspective! My time studying abroad was completely different from my time here in Spain this year! Both great experiences though!

love these views!

love these views!

The ISA office :)

The ISA office 🙂

Sitting in the Plaza

Sitting in the Plaza

It was nice to see that nothing had really changed since I had been there and it was a very familiar place! I hope that one day I can do the same with Logroño!

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My time here is ending…but I am left with so many memories!!

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Our time here in Spain is wrapping up so quickly I feel like every time I blink another week has flown by!!  I went from looking forward to the next Spanish holiday or vacation we were going to have to thinking about my work this summer and flights home to Atlanta!! I can’t believe this journey is ending so soon!! Of course it ends with mixed feelings as I am going to miss this city more than anything but I am so excited to go back to the United States. I am ready to go back to normal life and see all those who I love and miss so much!!

Having so much to look forward to in the next three months makes leaving here a little easier!! The most recent news is that I have officially accepted a call to teach next year at a Lutheran school in Houston!! I am beyond excited about this new opportunity and also very nervous for the many changes and challenges to come!! I will be moving there in August and will spend little time at home this summer. I will be heading straight to California for camp this summer before preparing for my first year as a teacher! I am going to be teaching Spanish to pre k 4 to 5 graders!! It is something I never pictured myself doing but when I got offered the opportunity it seemed like the perfect path to take after spending a year here in Spain! I will still be surrounded by Spanish and most importantly can hopefully share my passion for Spanish and my love for Spain with my students!

Leaving behind my Spanish family is also going to be extremely hard but I have been so thankful for everything they have done for me this year! They have made my experience so incredible and of course helped my Spanish some 🙂 I have learned many fun words from them including…pingo (someone who goes out a lot), manitas (a handy man), patas arriba (a big mess), and of course my favorite un frio que pela (when it is extremely cold). The best part about the connection I have made with them is that I always know I have a home waiting for me in Spain and when I return someday I will definitely be making a visit to good ol’ Logroño!

With only a total of 21 days left in Spain there is a lot that has to be done! It’s always so crazy to think about the beginning during the end! It’s hard to remember those first few months when I didn’t know many people and didn’t know this city I call home now! Hopefully we will be able to hit up all of the pincho bars that have become our favorites! A unique experience that has become so normal will soon seem very strange when we return to the United States. Maybe one night will have to be pincho night so I can share with my friends and family how we do things here in Logroño!

For now I only have many lists in my head… things I can’t wait to eat, places I can’t wait to go, and people I can’t wait to see. Time must slow down though because I still have 21 days here in this country before I leave and they are going to be enjoyed as much as possible! Next week two friends and I are taking a week trip to Croatia…then when we return it’s one week and three days of classes before I take that one way bus to Madrid.

Quick update on Spring in Logroño!

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April came and so did many visitors and now it’s practically May…the last month of my time here in Spain!! That is hard to take in because as I start thinking about the end I am not ready to leave what has become my home the last 8 months! I do have a lot to look forward to in the next few months! I will be working at Mt.Cross summer camp in California this summer before I begin teaching in the fall.

These past two weeks at school have been pretty routine with nothing special going on. In one of the high schools I did many lessons about Easter and our traditions in the United States. This was not an easy task and my students didn’t quite understand any of our traditions for this holiday! They were also very confused about why we didn’t celebrate it more religiously like they do here in Spain. And the typical question…are there lots of parties like there are here!? Haha if only they could understand that these parties only exist here and could not be compared to anything in the US.

In the other high school I have been working with small groups of students practicing for their oral exams they will have in June. It is a challenging task but with each week the students are improving and gaining confidence in their speaking!! I am hoping that with this much practice they will learn to not be afraid to speak in front of me because I only work on correcting their mistakes and helping them with translations!!

Two weeks ago we went on a hiking trip to La Grajera. This is a park with a large lake and walking trails. It was a beautiful weekend so we wanted to take advantage of the weather and take a picnic and relax in the sun!! I couldn’t believe I had never been to this park before after living in Logroño for so long! It was about a 7km walk and we spent the afternoon laying in the grass enjoying the warmth! This trip was also neat because it is along the Camino de Santiago which goes through Logroño.

Lately there have been more and more tourists and foreigners here in the city which is very exciting for all of us Guiris (what Spanish people call foreigners!) It was very rare to hear any English during the winter months because not many people were traveling here but now that the weather is nice and there are hundreds of people who pass by here on the camino we hear a lot more English!!

Last Sunday our Spanish group of friends invited us out to the country for a Spanish BBQ type afternoon! We all headed out in cars to one of our friend’s houses and cooked up a giant Paella on the patio while enjoying the peaceful outdoors all day! It was an excellent way to spend a Sunday afternoon and made me miss the peace and quiet of living in the suburbs in the US! City life is definitely not for me! We also played some wall tennis as they play here and enjoyed some time in the sun!! Later we devoured a really large paella between nine people and enjoyed some nice American cookie cake for dessert! 🙂

 

Our view for the day :)

Our view for the day 🙂

The girls relaxing with the necessities!

The girls relaxing with the necessities!

The master paella maker!

The master paella maker!

Playing fronton!

Playing fronton!

Paella!

Paella!

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Next weekend we are headed to the first place I called home in Spain…Salamanca!!! So excited to revisit my summer studying abroad!

Semana Santa- Andalucia

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One of the biggest weeks of the year in España is Semana Santa, or Holy week as we call it in the US. The week we celebrate before Easter! Andalucia is known for its Semana Santa celebrations throughout the week and especially in Sevilla. All of Spain celebrates this holiday but my friends and I decided that this would be the perfect opportunity to go and experience what is the south of Spain!

My boyfriend and two friends and I made travel plans and hoped to hit all the highlights while we were visiting! Only having been to Andalucia once to visit a friend when she was studying in Sevilla I was really eager to see a new part of the country! We left Logroño on the 28th and traveled until the 6th of April!! Our first stop was to Madrid because it isn’t always easy trying to travel from the tiny little city we live in 🙂 Blessed with amazing weather we decided to take a stop in Retiro Park in Madrid for a picnic lunch before we caught our train to Sevilla!!

We made it to Sevilla in time to meet up with our apartment owner, get to our apartment, and finally get ready for our first night of activities!! Jueves Santo (Holy Thursday) is known for a procession it has in the early morning (Madrugada). We set out to find something to eat and prepare for the long wait we had! Craving something other than Spanish food…which always happens on vacation, we had pizza!!! We staked out a spot on the bridge going to the famous neighborhood of Triana and waited and waited…and waited for the procession. It was an amazing experience to see this procession! It is mind boggling how many participate in these events and how long they go for! This procession left the church at around 2:30 and if I remember correctly went through the streets until the next afternoon at 12!! We saw many people dressed like this 🙂

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The next day we got up in time to have lunch in the city! We tried many different tapas, I especially liked the gazpacho 🙂 This is a cold tomato soup famous in Andalucia! Since one of my friends had previously studied in Sevilla she knew her way around pretty well and was our tour guide! She took us to see some new parts of the city! Navigating through the city during this week was extremely challenging because streets were blocked left and right because of all the processions going on throughout the day! We were wandering near the main street, around the cathedral when we heard some Americans go past us talking about Howie Mandel. It caught our attention immediately and we were curious if maybe they had seen him in Sevilla! We kept walking around and eventually ran into Howie!! He was really in Sevilla and they had just taken pictures with him! Later we checked out the Plaza de España and we took pictures with many of the different cities we have been to in Spain! 🙂

Valencia

Valencia

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Later that night we headed down to explore the area around the river and eventually had dinner. After we headed to a bar called La Carbonería! They are famous for flamenco shows!! We showed up after one had already started and it was packed!! We got some drinks and staked out a spot to eventually go sit down to enjoy the show! It was as cool as I remember it being when I went last time I visited Sevilla!!

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We finally had some unbelievable weather and took advantage of it by having a nice late Spanish breakfast on a patio in the sun!! Oh and not to mention I was brave enough to give coffee another try…YUCK!!! We spent the rest of the day hitting up the touristy places in the city! We saw the Alcazar and the Cathedral, both things I had visited before but it was nice to revisit them and think about all the memories I made on my last trip! The only thing on our to do list that afternoon was to head to the rio to relax and sit in the sun!! We also stumbled upon this procession leaving the church and I did my best to capture the moment!

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Along the river in Sevilla

Along the river in Sevilla

Before we knew it, it was time to leave this amazing city and continue our journey south! My boyfriend and I split up from my friends to begin our travel on our own! Our next stop was Torremolinos/Malaga! Why Torremolinos you may ask…well there is a reason I decided to visit here! My parents stayed in this city on their honeymoon way back when so i decided that if I going as far as Malaga I must visit this city to experience what they saw on their vacation! It ended up being one of my favorite stops on the trip and a nice break from the big city life we experienced in Sevilla! We had two days of decent weather and enjoyed the beach and coast as much as we could! The only downfall about this area was the large amount of English used…and the lack of the need to speak Spanish! We spent most of our time walking along the boardwalk checking out all the neat restaurants and shops along the water! We also explored the small city of Torremolinos up on the hill!

The boardwalk in Torremolinos

The boardwalk in Torremolinos

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Next it was time to travel to Granada! We caught a bus from Malaga to the bus station in Granada! From there we had to figure out how to make it to our apartment we were staying in! We checked out the neighborhood that our apartment was located in and found the local grocery store and bakery to get some supplies we would need! We also checked out the river downtown and wandered around some of the streets until we were tired and ready to head home!

We visited the Alhambra!! This is the famous monument of Granada and one of things I was most looking forward to during this trip!! It was more amazing to see it in person than I imagined! We took about 4 hours to see everything and that wasn’t even all there was to see!!! My favorite part was seeing the Palace of the Nazarenes which is a group of a few palaces that you can tour through! Everything has traces of work done by the muslims which gives it a very interesting character! We were so fortunate enough to have perfect weather this day with sunshine and blue skies so we were able to enjoy everything without worrying about the rain!! Here is some of what we saw!

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Amazing detailed work!

Amazing detailed work!

General life-beautiful fountains and gardens!

General life-beautiful fountains and gardens!

Unfortunately we were not able to make our trip to the Sierra Nevada Mountains because of the weather we have been having this year! It was too cold and there was too much snow! We had to make some alternate plans this day! We hiked up the famous neighborhood of Granada called the Albayzin to explore the white houses of the south and to get an amazing view of the Alhambra from across the way up on the hill! There were SO many stairs but we eventually made it up! The view was incredible!!

Alhambra from the Albayzin

Alhambra from the Albayzin

Our trip to Andalucia was incredible and we got to see a completely different side of España! Its crazy to think that after living up north that we didn’t travel to another country!! Only 6 weeks left in this beautiful country that I have grown to call home!! It’s going to fly by! Soon I will have a post about some news for the future!! It’s going to be a whirlwind but so excited for the next chapter to start!!

 

You mean you are seriously having more visitors!? :)

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The last few weeks have been crazy busy and I have a lot to update about!! I had many visitors and traveled to a lot of new places! My boyfriend arrived at the end of March and my parents were also here for a quick weekend trip!

Where to even begin…

When my parents arrived we spent most of the weekend in Navarra and the Basque country to explore some of the greener parts of the northern regions! I really enjoy getting out of the city and seeing some of the nature that we are surrounded by up here in the northeast! The beauty of living in one the of the smallest regions in Spain is that things are relatively close and it is not too hard to drive one hour and be in completely new surroundings!

We visited Urkiola National Park in the Basque country for an afternoon of hiking in the mountains! We hiked one trail that brought us to the top of a small mountain! On our hike we met people from many different countries! Unfortunately it was a chilly day but we got wonderful views for miles!

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We also visited the Castle of Olite. A beautiful castle right in the center of the city of Olite in the province of Navarra! We toured the castle…and even managed to get a little lost!! I think we were some of the only people there!! It felt like a fairytale castle because of the many spires with vines growing on them 🙂

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Our last stop for the weekend was to Vitoria. One of the closest cities in the Basque country to our home! We spent the evening wandering around the city and exploring all there was to see! We managed to find escalators in the streets, city walls, and 5 out of 7 murals in the city! The city was comparable to Logroño but definitely a little bigger! We eventually stumbled upon the pincho streets and set out to find something to eat for dinner!

The last highlight of my parent’s last trip here to Logroño was taking a trip out to Mercedes’s family’s bodega to pick up some wine to bring home! We surprised Mer’s dad at the bodega as we entered the door! He absolutely loves talking with us and I really enjoy spending time with him! As soon as we walked through the door he tried to offer us wine of course…and chorizo and bread! I told him we were only there for one purpose and that was to pick up some last minute wine to cherish in the US after I leave here! We ended up buying some wine and then asked if we could have a quick tour to show Rhys the winery! Well that short tour ended up in me translating the entire tour for them from Spanish and boy was it a lot of work! Overall a great experience and so glad we made it there to see him one more time!

Valencia-Las Fallas!

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This past weekend four friends and I traveled down to the region of Valencia to experience one of the biggest festivals in Spain, Las Fallas! This festival is known mostly for fireworks and large structures called fallas that they build and then later burn! These traditions are amazing and breathtaking to see in person!! With only 2 and a half days in the city, we did our best to see all we could! While we were there to participate in the festival we also did some sightseeing around the city because there was a lot to see! We took a trip out to the beach, visited the arts and sciences buildings, and visited the old part of the city!

We caught a bus from Logro that went straight to Valencia on Friday morning! We arrived and made our way to our apartment where we were staying for the weekend! On our way to our apartment we quickly realized just how big the city was and how much life was around! We saw fallas, churro stands, and loads of people! Coming from our small city of Logroño any large city seems like a new world! Although we only managed to get lost a few times we had to rely on our trusty map always to get us through the maze of streets. We set out for a night of exploring the city! We wandered through the old quarter and saw many fallas! Everywhere you looked there was one set up in it´s own little neighborhood! We stopped at a few bars to take a break and take in the surroundings! There was so much to see and so much happening at the same time that it was interesting to people watch and also to watch the people of the different neighborhoods finishing up their structures! It is amazing how each neighborhood makes their own fallas and how each one is so different! They usually had their own theme! Since they do not burn them until Tuesday the 19th they were still working on them all weekend!! Here is some of what we saw…

View out our apartment window

View out our apartment window

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One of the biggest fallas!

One of the biggest fallas!

A bunch of tourists!

A bunch of tourists!

There is so much to see in this city that we still had so much left to see the next day! On Saturday we headed out to the beach of Valencia to check out what we were missing had we gone in the summer time 🙂 we also had to get some paella! We walked along the boardwalk and then sat down at a restaurant for some delicious lunch! We also managed to wander into a neighborhood where they were having a fiesta for fallas we assumed and everyone was out in the streets cooking paellas over open fire and dancing and singing! The Spanish really do love to party!

Paella-typical food of Valencia

Paella-typical food of Valencia

Our next stop was the city of arts and sciences! This is a famous landmark of the city because it is one of the things Valencia is known for! It is a large area with many futuristic buildings that are museums or other science related things! They are neat to see from the outside and make a nice contrast from the old quarter of the city! We walked around the whole complex enjoying the sun and the views! One of the most modern things I have seen in Spain so far!

Me and my friends at the arts and sciences musuems

Me and my friends at the arts and sciences museums

Later we wandered around the city to see more of the fallas we hadn’t seen and of course the boys had to buy fireworks! The whole weekend was full of booms and explosions because during this festival all day everyday kids or for that matter people of all ages enjoy setting off fireworks everywhere! At first I have to admit it took a little getting used to and I probably jumped with every explosion no matter how big!! But then after a while it became part of the fun and I even set off one! 🙂 We found our way to the main plaza in the city, the Plaza de Ayuntamiento! In this square there was an open market, a catherdral and tons of restaurants! This meant a lot of people!! From there we made our way to an Irish bar to celebrate St. Patrick’s day! We happened to be there when all of the sudden a large crowd of people ran into the bar singing and dancing and playing instruments! We still aren´t quite sure what it was about but it sure was entertaining and a great way to end our day!

Finally on Sunday we had most of the morning and afternoon before our train to Madrid to explore a little more! We went and saw everything we hadn’t seen yet and even walked through the beautiful park that goes throughout the city! I also got to experience one of the famous food chains here known as 100 montaditos. Here is where they have a million different types of little sandwiches and you order however many you want and they are all unique and very delicious! Overall it was a great trip and we were all exhausted and ready to head home! We sure were going to miss the sun and warm weather though!

My week in pictures!!

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This week I felt like I captured so many things in pictures! I thought I would change thing up a little bit and show you through pictures  all the exciting things happening these days…

Amazing sunrise I caught one night by the river!

Amazing sunset I caught one night by the river!

New pincho mini hamburgesitas!!

New pincho mini hamburgesitas!!

One of the millions of strikes that have happened here in Logro

One of the millions of strikes that have happened here in Logro

A snowy morning in Santo Domingo!!

A snowy morning in Santo Domingo!!

Love this cutie!!

Love this cutie!!

I made homemade chili for the fam to try one day!

I made homemade chili for the fam to try one day!

It was Madrid vs Barcelona! Only the most important matches of the year!

It was Madrid vs Barcelona! Only one of the most important matches of the year!

Since we live in Spain…I have adopted the love of futbol and enjoy watching the matches whenever they are on tv! We always root for Madrid of course!! But only because there are too many Barca haters around and we wouldn’t want to get in trouble 🙂

Concert!

Concert!

One of my friends here from Logroño has a friend who plays concerts once in a while in a bar! Last Saturday we went to it! He played many Spanish songs on his guitar and sang! While he played his friend was drawing pictures with pastels!

February…all things new!

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Well I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted!! España has kept me very busy! 🙂 I don’t even know where to begin!

It’s already the end of February and I might actually believe that time really is going to keep flying by! Little has happened it seems this month but really I have been so busy with school, classes, and traveling! We have also been making our plans for our travels up until the end of the school year and we are going to continue to be very busy!!

Most recently my mom made her third trip here to Spain this year to visit me for a long weekend I had off of school! She asked me where I would like to travel to and I suggested an area of the country I had never been to before and knew I probably never would before my time here is over! We traveled to the region of Asturias for the weekend. This region is in the northwest and about a 5 hour bus ride from here!! We spent time in both Oviedo and Gijon to check out just how green parts of Spain can really be! Traveling around this green countryside reminded me a lot of Ireland and the hills and sheep and mountains you can see for miles! Although they say there is a reason it is so green…because of all the rain they get! We were lucky enough to have really great weather while we were there! The best part I think for me besides being in an area so green it reminded me of home, was that instead of wine being everywhere in the cities they drink cider!! It was almost some sort of culture shock to experience everyone in the streets with their bottles of cider and watching the waiters pour the cider in a way that almost seems professional! We had to of course try the cider one night to get the full experience! I had already tried it before with the family on our trip to San Sebastian but this cider in Asturias is a little different! Just like Laurel street here in Logro famous for pinchos and wine…they have a famous cider street in Oviedo! IMG_3363

IMG_3329In Oviedo we also hiked up a small mountain to visit to ancient ruins from the 800’s. We also got to see this great view of the countryside and the mountains with snow! We had the best weather this day so it was the perfect opportunity to see this great view of the city! After Oviedo we traveled to Gijon which is just about 30 minutes north of Oviedo. We only spent one night here but it was enough because there is not much to see in this city! We walked around the beach and the Plaza mayor and climbed up the hill in the old town to visit all the important monuments!

My friend Emily and I!

My friend Emily and I!

Neat structure on the hill in Gijon!

Neat structure on the hill in Gijon!

Things in my schools have been going really well! I finally feel like I am settling into a routine with all my schools and am enjoying some of my classes! I have recently started working in small groups with my high school students to prepare them for their oral exams they have in June. They have to practice monologues and dialogues so we practice with topics and brainstorming ideas. In the culinary school I have begun working with a new teacher named Silvia because the English professor I have been working with is out sick for a while (Miss you Francisco!!). She is young and has worked at the school of languages here in Logroño.

Last weekend was also Carnaval here in Logroño! A celebration they have every February! We got dressed up and went out with a group of friends! It was like Halloween celebrated in February! Three friends and I dressed up as American Holidays 🙂 I was 4th of July! Most people were not quite sure what I was and assumed I was trying to be the American flag or something!

The next few weeks are going to be very busy! Next weekend two of my friends and I are traveling to Bordeaux for the weekend to visit the city and a winery! My grandma has family that lives there so lucky for us we have our own tour guides for the weekend! Then in two weeks we are traveling down to Valencia for Las Fallas…a holiday celebrated in Mid March!

One last exciting thing! I learned how to make patatas con chorizo (A typical soup here with potatoes and chorizo) with Mercedes the other day! Now I have the recipe and can cook them when I come back home to the US!

 

 

A week in my life!

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Now that I have been here for over 5 months I have begun a life of routine and normalcy as I have settled into the Spanish culture! It wasn’t an easy road, but while I sit here drinking some Rioja wine and enjoying a freshly baked brownie it seems as though I have come full circle and I don’t know if I will ever be able to leave this place!

This second half of the year has begun very differently than I had expected but I am definitely enjoying the new year and all the changes it has brought! I have really settled into my house with my host family and have gotten really close to a few of the friends I have made here which is making the experience that much better! I have also been thinking a lot about the future which is adding a whole new level of stress to the spring! For an update on what I am planning to do next year…I am planning on getting a call from my university, Concordia, and teaching in a Lutheran school somewhere in the US instead of spending another year here in Spain! I won’t find out where I will be until after the interview process which begins on Feb 1st! I am excited and nervous at the same time but am so ready to be back in the American schools!!

Anyways…I thought I would write a little bit more about what my daily life is like here as many things have changed and I often update only on travel!!

On Mondays, I have work only at the culinary school from 8:30 until 2. I catch the early morning bus to Santo Domingo. I work with the same classes every week on this day and generally teach about hotel management and cooking related topics! This is my favorite day because I get to spend all day at the culinary school! After I am finished teaching I catch the 2pm bus home and am always racing to get to my apartment because I am starving! At 3 I eat a quick lunch that my host mom Mercedes has prepared and left for me on the counter! I then race off to my first class with a young girl in high school who is really good english! Sometimes I have another class at the academy afterwards! I then head home because by this time I am ready to just relax on the couch. I usually have one or two hours to myself at home for skyping…watching tv or whatever before the family gets home from a walk around town! I then usually play with Clara, or hang out for a while to socialize with the family! Then it is time for dinner and our usual movie before bed! What I love most about the tv in Spain is that every night many channels have a movie that begins at around 10 or so and so it is typical for us to eat dinner and watch a movie until midnight!

Map of my route to school

On Tuesdays I do not have work!! It is a great day when I get to sleep past 6:30!! Typically on this day I get up and lounge around the house while getting some lesson planning done and getting things ready for the rest of the week! This is also a great time to get caught up on  tv shows in the US! Tuesdays I make lunch in the house! It is really fun for me to see how Mercedes and Eduardo like my cooking since we use more spices and different flavors in the US! After lunch I usually have one or two classes at the academy! Afterwards I come home and usually spend the rest of the evening at home and prepare for the rest of the week!

Wednesday is the day I dread the most out of the week! I have to teach at all three schools on this day and therefore it is a little chaotic! I start out at the Catholic school teaching two hours. I then get dropped off at the other high school and teach two hours there! One with students and one with the teachers! I then walk to the culinary school and teach two classes there! Then catch the bus home and eat quickly and head out to more classes at the academy! Wednesday night is the night that I get together with my group of friends here in Logro! We usually make dinner or go out for dinner together to help us get through the rest of the week!! We  really enjoy going to the Indian restaurant here in town! Sometimes it is nice to eat something different from Spanish food once in a while!

Thursdays are my Fridays which is always a nice thought to wake up to! I work at the high school and the culinary school on this day! After school I usually have one or two classes at the academy before it is finally time to relax for the weekend! Sometimes on Thursdays we go out for pinchos or get together as a group to hang out but other days I spend the night at home with the family because it is a normal school day in my house!

Friday and Saturday I usually spend with friends doing anything from shopping to spending time at a cafe or cooking! We usually will go out for pinchos one or two nights during the weekend! Calle Laurel is usually busiest these two days so it is fun to hang out amongst the crowd! I usually eat lunch at home everyday of the week just because I enjoy eating with the family and I enjoy what Mercedes cooks! Sunday is a day usually spent relaxing at home and just playing with Clara and the family! Usually we have meal together and spend more time playing and also a little school planning to get prepared for the next week!!

Back to work and back to reality!

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After what seemed like a very long Christmas vacation it was back to work this week. We are in it for the long haul until Easter at the end of March! One of the things I have enjoyed so much about teaching here in Spain is the large amount of festivals or holidays they have. It has been days off of school here and there and sometimes more than once a month! Unfortunately though from now until Easter we only have one day off of school! But I know its going to come so fast!

This week I not only started working at my schools but I also started working a lot more at the academy! Late last semester I got a job at an English academy here in Logroño! I was only working a few hours a week there but now this semester I am working there everyday after school! At the academy classes go from 3:30 until 8 or so and it keeps me really busy! I usually have three classes a day and the ages vary! I have one conversation class with a 30 year old lady who is trying to find work in a winery and needs to practice her English! I also have classes with a group of 12 year olds, and 14 year olds. With these groups I work with them on grammar and any questions they have about their homework! Then I also have a mixed class with two young girls who know little to no English at all and then three older girls that are 9 or 10. So far I have been really enjoying working at the academy because it is much different from the work I do in my schools! Since my schools are all secondary or older I spend most of my time implementing into the classroom English conversation or culture through power points.

This past weekend when I returned from my trip to Paris was the end of the holiday season here in Spain with the celebration of the three kings day! On the morning of the 6th of January the children receive presents from the three kings just like we do in the US from Santa Claus! On Saturday the day before the three kings day here in Logro they have a parade in which the three kings arrive on floats in preparation to deliver their gifts!! There were also a lot of musicians, dancers, and horses that came throughout the streets as part of the celebration! Mercedes invited me to her brother’s house who lives on one of the streets where the parade passed through so I could get a better view from the balcony! This was so nice because there were so many people out to see the parade I would’ve never seen anything otherwise! It was fun to be with all of Mercedes’ nieces and nephews as they were watching the parade! It is very different to experience the children here getting so excited about these three kings when across the ocean I hardly knew that anything like this was celebrated!!

The following morning after the parade was when we were supposed to check our shoes to see if the three kings brought us anything! As soon as Clara woke up I heard her and knew I wanted to get up to so that I could watch her open her gifts! I was surprised to see a few gifts in my shoe as well!! It was quite the surprise but it made the day that much more special!

After a week of work I had a super busy weekend because I was finally reunited with all my friends after the holidays! On Saturday the family took me to see the Yuso and Suso monasteries in San Millian, a pueblo near Logro! It was very neat to see the birthplace of Castellano, the Spanish spoken in Spain! It was here that the first words were written in Spanish from Latin and there are many artifacts from these days! We got a tour of the monastery, in Spanish and got to see many different parts of the monastery! We also tried brunch here on Sunday! We were anxious to see how a Spanish brunch compared to an American…let’s just say they didn’t really have much in common but I enjoy both! We got champagne and then three different small courses followed by orange juice and ice cream! It was delicious!

Hopefully I will continue to update more frequently but for now that’s all I have!

 

The Christmas vacation that just kept going!!

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I just returned yesterday from a whirlwind vacation that landed me in 5 cities and 2 countries!! It was a blast and a great way to end the year and start a new one! The day after Christmas my dad arrived in Logroño and we prepared to leave the next day on a road trip out east to visit some of the coastal cities and Barcelona! We rented a car to drive over to Girona where we would be staying for two days before going to Barcelona!

We got to Girona in the late afternoon and we toured around to see what we could before it got too dark! We walked through the beautiful Jewish quarter as well as along the river! It was a lot different from what I had originally expected it to be like! We also checked out the Christmas markets and the main plaza downtown!

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The following day we planned to do two road trips! We traveled first to Roses. This is a small coastal town north of Girona. It was recommended by Mercedes and Eduardo so we thought we should check it out! It was really beautiful and neat to drive around the mountainous villages to get great views! Unfortunately since it was off season there were not very many people out and about and not a whole lot open! We managed to walk around the main center of town and then later drove up to the top of the mountain to visit some ruins and hike around! We had this great view!

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After our tour of the city we stopped to tour a bodega on our way out! We ended up getting some advice from the owner to visit another costal town called Cadaques. So we decided to head there for lunch! It ended up being so cute and quaint and definitely worth the windy mountain drive!

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Then it was on to Barcelona! We drove about two hours to our hotel and then took off to the city for some exploring! Our first stop was the much anticipated Sagrada Familia! It is one thing to see the outside as it is one of the most famous cathedrals in Spain but to go inside was something else! It like nothing I imagined it would be…so unbelievable! The work is impressive and to think it’s not even near being finished yet…

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We also walked around the gothic quarter of Barcelona and found many tiny twisty roads to get lost in! We eventually made it to the place my parents have been talking about since last year when they visited Barcelona. A bar owned a man named Santi! They had been dying to go back so we found it and stopped for a drink! We also walked around Las Ramblas to check out the shopping street with the famous name!

On our last day in Barcelona we first did a hike up to Park Guell! We stopped and got some breakfast to eat up in the park! We got some great views of the city from the top! The park was nice and a lot bigger than I imagined! We wandered through most of it checking out another one of Gaudi’s famous works and even ran into a roll tide family…haha! Later we headed towards the boardwalk area to visit the beach and the waterfront of Barcelona! Fish and gelato were on the menu that night 🙂

Then it was time to say goodbye to my family because their vacation was ending but mine was just getting started! Bright and early we headed to the airport and I caught a flight to Paris to meet up with two of my friends! I arrived in Paris and was to meet my two friends in the Sheraton Hotel in the airport! I made it to the hotel and waited for a good hour or so before I began to panic that I was not going to be able to find them! But eventually I met up with them and we were picked up by our friend George 🙂 he drove us to his village outside of France for a customary longggggg European lunch! We then got a driving tour of Paris before he dropped us off at our apartment in the city! We got settled into our apartment and then quickly got ready because it was New Years Eve and we were ready to celebrate because we were in PARIS!!! With a bottle of champagne, some glasses, and warm gear we began our adventure out into the city to find a place to celebrate! We ended up near the Eiffel Tower but boy was it crowded!! Right after midnight we began our adventure home!! Everyone was cold and wet and we didn’t feel like spending anymore time surrounded by crowds out in the cold! We attempted to take the metro home but…the metro was free all night, and we were in one of the most popular spots in the whole city…so it didn’t go as planned! After about 2 hours or so we eventually made it home all in one piece but that’s not to say we all weren’t traumatized a little!! Happy to be home we made some dinner and hung out for a while before getting ready for our first sigh seeing day in Paris!

Day 1:

We walked around the city before we spotted one of those tour buses that takes you around the city and you can hop on and off! We decided this would be fun to do so we hopped on to begin our tour! Our first stop off the tour was in the Montmartre neighborhood! We got off here to explore the Sacre Coeur and the bohemian neighborhood! We climbed up all the way to the top of the hill where the basilica is and got a great view of Paris!

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We hopped on the bus later to explore more of the city and on our way we saw a Chipotle!! We could not believe it!! Sadly it wasn’t open because it was New Year’s Day but we knew we would eventually go back there before we left! We continued exploring and saw the Lourve and the Tuileries gardens! Lucky for us it was the nicest day we had in Paris!!

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We hopped back on the bus one last time for a nigh time ride around the Champs Elysees! The best part was that while we were riding the bus down this famous street we got to listen to a wonderful song that sang about the Champs Elysees through the bus speakers and it just made the experience that much better! Feel free to check out the song here and pretend you are in Paris driving down the street! The street is filled with Christmas markets where you can find just about anything!

Day 2:

We began our day by heading to one of the indoor markets in the city to pick up some breakfast and then we headed for another bus tour of some areas we hadn’t seen before in Paris! We saw the Pantheon, the University, and the Latin quarter.We got off around lunch time and found a cute Thai place for lunch! Paris was all about eating the exotic foods we are not so privileged too in Logro! That afternoon we took the bus down the Champs Elysees one more time…honestly just to listen to our favorite song and this time got out near the Arc de Triumph and went underneath it for some great views!

In front of Champs Elysees!

In front of Champs Elysees!

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Our last stop of the night was to Laduree for the famous macaroons! The place was extremely crowded and we had to wait in the line but these cookies were worth it!! We got 8 different flavors and later that night divided them all up so everyone could try each one! It was my first time ever having macaroons and they were delicious!!
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Day 3:

It was time for a day trip out to Versailles to see the palace! we got up early to make sure we could beat the crowds but ended up spending a lot of time confused in route as we had to take the metro and train to get there! But we made it…and there weren’t that many long lines so no worries! The place was FULL of tourists but that’s what we get for traveling around the holidays! It didn’t really stop us from enjoying the elaborate palace and gardens! Unfortunately nothing was working in the gardens and there were not any beautiful flowers but we still got to take in the beautiful landscape and the large size of the place! After we toured the palace we walked around and saw Marie Antoinette’s estate which was also beautiful! They weren’t joking when they said you can spend 5 hours + visiting everything!

Outside the front of the Palace

Outside the front of the Palace

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After our tour we headed back to the city and went to Chipotle for lunch!! It was everything we hoped it would be and some of the workers were even American! We were all a little terrified about the idea of having to order our lunch in french at an American chain! Later we wanted to walk around the Latin quarter to experience it at night! Since this is one of the most hopping areas of town there is a lot going on and a lot to see! This area is where all the students live and it also has a million different restaurants and bars!

Day 4:

Our last day in Paris we decided to go on two walking tours! The first tour was through the Montmartre district! This is the bohemian neighborhood which is home to the Moulin Rouge! Our tour guide was great and a local that lived in the area so she took us to many local places and filled us in on something interesting I don’t think we would’ve ever noticed ourselves! Throughout this district there is a lot of street art all over the walls and on the sides of buildings and its very neat! In this neighborhood there are lots of art studios and this is where a lot of the artists live.

Street in Montmartre

Street in Montmartre

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Later we headed over to Notre Dame where our second tour was supposed to meet. This tour was of the Latin Quarter…or the left bank. This tour was also great because we saw many things we had never seen before! These included the Pantheon, the oldest church in Paris, the University, and the oldest tree in Paris! We also learned that this district is where most of the students live and they often live in the apartments on the very top floor. They are generally very tiny and can cost 600 euros a month!! Yikes! After our tour we met up with a friend of Emily who lives in France. She took us to a popular crepe and gelato place! I finally got to eat the french crepe I had been dying to have the whole trip!! It was so delicious! Sadly that was the end of our trip to the city of lights! Although we were sad to leave…we couldn’t believe how ready we were to hear Spanish again and to be able to understand the simple things of everyday life! I never thought I would say that but after being surrounded by french for 5 days we were more than ready!

Now its back to Logroño for the spring! Only five more months here in Spain! I know they are going to fly by!!

Celebrating the holidays Spain style! !

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Celebrating Christmas in Spain this year was very interesting! Because the celebration of Santa Claus in not really a huge deal here it felt in a way anticlimactic! The last week before break was spent at school singing Christmas carols, talking about Santa Claus, and talking about the traditions in the United States! These all got me very excited for the days that were to come because I knew my family was arriving and we would celebrate!

It has definitely been really hard though to be away from home during the holidays…some things would not be the same though and were missed a lot!! The one main thing I missed was seeing all of the Christmas lights in my town and  around the neighborhoods! Here we did have some Christmas lights that were up around the city which gave it a little festive cheer! I also missed all of the good food we have at home during the holidays! I did do a little baking with friends and at my house which was great! I made chocolate chip cookies at my house for the family and they LOVED them!! Let’s just say a batch of over 20 were easily gone in two days!! Mercedes even asked me if I could make them again sometime soon! But not too soon she said because they were rich…and way too good!! 🙂

My mom and sister arrived here in Spain on the 22nd, the day after school was officially out for the holidays! We have off until the 8th of January because the biggest of the holidays is yet to come! On the 6th of January for anyone that doesn’t know (because I didn’t before coming to Spain) the Spanish celebrate the three wise men or the three kings! On the night of the 5th just like Santa they come and leave presents for the kids!! So I am really looking forward to this day to watch Clara open up her gifts!! So anyways my mom and sister got in on Saturday night! We took a day trip on Sunday to San Sebastian because that is one of my favorite places in Spain!! They loved it and we couldn’t have had better weather!! Then on Monday we got supplies to cook dinner for Monday night and Tuesday night!! We had a Mexican dinner on Tuesday which was something I had been craving since I left home!! It’s hard to go that long without a taco! 🙂 We also took in the sites around Logro! There is a neat life-size nativity scene in the city which is incredible at night!! We also checked out the Christmas market and took advantage of a little shopping!!

sunset on the beach :)

sunset on the beach 🙂

They even added a vineyard to the nativity scene!

They even added a vineyard to the nativity scene!

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Dinner :)

Dinner 🙂

My dad arrived on the 26th and next up we are headed on a little adventure out east! We are going to Girona and Barcelona before I fly to Paris to meet up with a few friends!!

Where has December gone!?

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I can’t believe we are in the last week of December already! Not much has happened lately to update but Christmas break has started and I couldn’t be happier! We get almost two weeks off from school!

This past week I did a lot of Christmas activities with my classes…my favorite part was singing Christmas carols with my older students! Nothing makes me smile more than seeing 20 and 30 year olds singing Christmas songs like Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer and having a good time! They loved to sing these songs because they are in English which is a challenge for them! We sang so many songs and they even made me sing a few in Spanish was very interesting! I also learned a lot about the Spanish holiday Reyes Magos. They celebrate the three kings day here in Spain more than they celebrate Santa! Many students were very surprised when I said before coming here to Spain I was not aware of this holiday!

On Thursday we had a staff lunch during school! It was during the break time at school and I couldn’t believe how elaborate it was! We had many typical Spanish foods like tortilla, croquetas, stuffed peppers, ham and bread, and of course wine!! It was a treat, and a nice way to end the week!

This weekend my family is coming to visit for the week for Christmas! We are spending some time here in Logroño then traveling to the east coast to see Barcelona and Girona!!

A weekend full of island weather and palm trees!!

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This past weekend we had another puente because of the Spanish holiday on December 6th! Since I don´t work on Fridays this meant that I had Thursday through Sunday off and that it was time for a vacation! Although I am missing the holiday spirit and the holiday traditions that are in the United States, a few friends and I decided we wanted some warmer weather for a few days and took a weekend trip to Palma Mallorca and Ibiza. These are two islands off the coast of Spain!! The trip began at 1:30am on Wednesday night and didn´t end until almost 3am on Monday morning!  We had a blast though, and definitely enjoyed the warm weather, palm trees, and endless ocean!

We left Logroño at around 1:30am on a bus headed to Barcelona. It was about a 6 hour bus ride and we arrived in Barcelona very groggy but ready to start our adventure to Mallorca! We had to catch a plane out of Barcelona to Mallorca. Once we arrived in Mallorca we caught the bus from the airport to take us to the center of town so we could head to our hostel. We were all starving so we decided to check in then find somewhere to eat lunch! We ended up finding this neat bar that had a special where you could get five pinchos and a drink for lunch. We each got 5 pinchos and they were all excellent!! We then of course had to explore the beach because we were all anxious to stick our feet in the sand!! The views did not disappoint! Neither did the weather! We took a nice long and needed nap on the beach to take advantage of the sun and the warmth!

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Later that evening we went in to town to explore the old part of town and the Christmas markets! The city was really beautifully decorated for Christmas and actually had their lights turned ON! We first stumbled upon the Christmas markets and found some really interesting things! We stopped at a booth to try this dessert bread called buen rollo. It is something that comes from Romania. A couple was selling these breads and hot wine! It was absolutely delicious!! We walked through some of the streets of the old town and even saw the plaza mayor! Afterwards we walked back towards our hotel and stopped for some dinner on the way.

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The making of the buen rollo

The making of the buen rollo

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor

Friday morning we decided to take a day trip to the town of Soller. A small village in the mountains northeast of Palma de Mallorca! We took an old train that goes through the mountains and it was beautiful!! It was an old wooden train and we were practically the only ones on it! It was about an hour ride up to Soller. When we got there we went and explored the small village and then went and got breakfast. Later we took a trolley down to the port of Soller. I was surprised with the amazing views we were able to see and the breathtaking mountainous landscape that surrounded us! We wandered around and took in the amazing scenery until we were hungry for lunch! Since it’s the off season there was not much open! We ended up finding a place with this view…

View from lunch!

View from lunch!

Delicious lunch!

Delicious lunch!

Amazing views in Soller

Amazing views in Soller

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We took a ferry to Ibiza from Mallorca. The ride was supposed to be an easy two and a half hours and we figured it wouldn’t be a big deal. I had imagined being able to hang out outside and snap some pictures and take in some sol but boy were we wrong! Apparently the day we left for Ibiza the seas were worse than normal! We spent about two hours on the ferry trying not to get sick like the rest of the people around us! Although I normally never get sea sick I was feeling pretty nauseous but it didn’t help that about 80% of the boat was getting sick or had their seasick bag in front of their mouth! It was a long tortuous few hours and we were so happy to finally be on solid ground!

Once we were in Ibiza we walked to our hotel which was right on the ocean…so neat!! We got settled then the first thing on our list to do was to go to a pastry shop my friend had researched! We each got something super delicious as a snack until lunch! 🙂 Then we were all anxious to go to the beach! We walked along the beach and laid out in the sun for a while just to enjoy the perfect weather! After lunch we went to explore the old part of Ibiza which was nothing like I had expected! Many cute houses and tiny streets set on top of a hill surrounded by ocean!

Old town of Ibiza

Old town of Ibiza

The view from the top of the old town!

The view from the top of the old town!

Lastly we had half the morning on Sunday left in Ibiza so we decided to do some climbing around the cliffs near the ocean! We found some beautiful views and by the end we were all extremely hot and tired! The weather was even better than we could’ve asked for and we sure were not ready to leave the island life! We headed to the airport to catch our flight back to Barcelona and then later to the bus back to Logroño! Just in time to take a short nap before having to wake up for another week of work!

 

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Woah….can’t believe its December!!

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The month of November definitely passed by so quickly because of all the visitors I had and now it is December!! The holidays are finally in full swing here in Logroño and it sure is nice to finally feel like its Christmas time! They have lights up all around the city and for the first time on Friday they turned the lights on!! I do miss seeing the Christmas sites around my town…and hearing Christmas music wherever you go. Some things I guess this year just won’t be the same…We did put up our Christmas tree in our house yesterday and now it feels a little more festive in the house! It is the first year that Eduardo told me he has ever had a tree in his house and I couldn’t believe it when he told me that! I told him this is a tradition that we do every year in our house! We are gathered in the living room to get out our big fake tree so we can assemble it piece by piece then put on the ornaments and lights! It is really neat to be able to experience it with them and especially Clara!! Here is the finished product!

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A street lit up by grapes of course!

A street lit up by grapes of course!

Fully decorated tree!

Fully decorated tree! 

The winter weather has really been hitting us hard here in La Rioja lately…and that means lots of cold and rain. On Thursday it got cold enough out west by where my school is in Santo Domingo to snow!!! Most of the mountains now are all covered in white and it looks beautiful! I can’t wait to see what they look like after we get even more snow! Unfortunately the ground was not cold enough for the snow to stick but soon enough I’m sure it will!

This week in some of my classes at the culinary school the students are preparing for oral exams that we are giving them next week! It is very interesting here the amount of oral exams that the students are required to take if they are learning a foreign language! I was never required ever to have an oral exam in any of my language classes! I guess that is not something stressed in our curriculum but I feel that it is really important and I’m glad the students get these opportunities!

I also had an appointment on Wednesday with the Extranjeria–the government office for foreigners in Spain. I had to go because I am still in the process of applying for my residency card which I still do not have after 3 months of living here!! I had to turn in a few forms and get my finger prints taken only to be told in the first week of January I can return to pick up my residency card! Then I will officially be living here legally!

On Thursday I went with some friends to a local bar to hear some live music and I made some new local friends! One of my friends here is good friends with a coworker and they often go out for a drink and they invited me to join them! We had a really good time! We went to a new bar I had never been to and it was packed with people to watch the show and we got some food and drinks and mingled a little with some locals! We even got hit on by the owner because we were speaking English and he offered us a glass of this wine he called a ladies wine–because all the ladies like it! It actually was pretty good! It was a pretty fun night! Then on Saturday some friends and I went out to go bowling!! I had no idea they had bowling in Spain…let alone that there would be a bowling place in downtown Logro and for so cheap! So two friends and I went and played a round of bowling while sipping on wine and beer it was so fun!!

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Time is literally flying by here I can’t believe it! This week we have a short week because Thursday and Saturday are holidays here in Spain! I only work two days and then Wednesday night I am heading to Palma Mallorca and Ibiza with the weekend with two friends I can’t wait!!

 

A lot has happened in a few weeks!

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It’s been a long time since I have written an update! I have been so busy with lots of visitors here in Spain and forgot to write about it!

Two weeks ago we had the national huelga or strike throughout the country!! It was a crazy day!! I was not able to go to school because there were no buses running and almost everything was closed. Some individually owned businesses were of course open. But those that work for government jobs simply did not show up to show their protest! Later that evening there was a massive protest throughout the streets of Logroño! I met with my intercambio on one of the main streets in town and it sure was interesting trying to have a conversation as thousands marched on by us yelling and screaming and everything! Then on Thursday it was almost like everything was normal again…and everyone returned to work.

I started working at an English academy here in Logroño. I am teaching two classes. One is with three elementary school teachers working towards their English certificate. The other is a conversation class with a young girl. I work for a lady that owns the academy so she assigns me to the classes she would like me to teach and instructs me on what to do with them.

My boyfriend Rhys came to visit me in Logroño last Thursday! He stayed for 9 days!! Unfortunately the first weekend was spent in bed in the hotel because he got food poisoning on the way over! We spent a lot of time the next week exploring around Logro and of course Calle Laurel for pinchos! We tried a new one that is a type of Chorizo–sausage that is wrapped in a crispy fried dough and served with a spicy sauce! it is very delicious!

We celebrated two Thanksgiving while he was here 🙂 We celebrated once on Wednesday and once on Thursday! On Wednesday we celebrated with a simple meal of chicken and mashed potatoes and pumpkin bread for dessert! We got together with two of my friends and cooked at their house! It was really great to have a little pumpkin back in my life after missing it all fall!! Then on Thursday one of my friends had a huge Thanksgiving dinner at their house and we had a blast! It was a full on meal with all the American fixings anyone could ever want and man did I eat too much 🙂 of course we had a turkey!

So delicious!!

Such a great meal!

It was so fun to be with lots of great friends as we celebrated a holiday we all love!! We ate and talked and even drank some La Rioja wine to keep it classy!!

For the last weekend Rhys was here we decided to take a trip up north to the Basque Country–Bilbao!! It is only about a 2 hour bus ride from Logroño and it made for a perfect weekend trip! We left early Friday morning and even ended up meeting a friend at the bus station who was going to Bilbao to meet up with her boyfriend! We got there and made our way to our hotel and then explored for the day! We saw the Guggenheim and walked by the river! It is a decent size city with a completely different feel than Logroño! We met up with my friend and her boyfriend for some pinxtos and vino and walked around the old town to see what it was like at night! On Saturday we explored the Guggenheim which was pretty incredible, and took a trip out to a pueblo by the beach! We had unbelievable weather for the Basque region which was so nice! Then before I knew it, it was Sunday which meant we had to head home and Rhys would be leaving that night! We took the bus back to Logro and had a nice dinner and hung out before he had to catch the bus at 1am back to Madrid 😦 We had a great time and he even spoke a little Spanish!!

Panoramic of the Guggenheim!

The famous spider sculpture in front of the Guggenheim

 

 

Hanging bridge in Portugalete

Can’t believe I have been here for 10 weeks!! Time is flying by! One and a half more weeks of class until I travel to Palma Mallorca and Ibiza for puente in December 🙂

 

Teaching experiences so far!

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Before coming to Spain I really had no knowledge of what the schools systems were like here. I only knew what I read from other auxiliar’s blogs that I read before coming! I have to say it has been an eye-opening experience as to what teaching in another culture is like, and I am definitely glad to have this experience while I am living in Spain! I just thought I would write a little more about how the school system works and what exactly I am doing at each of my schools to keep my readers updated! I finally feel like I have gotten into a routine with my schools but sometimes I still don’t understand how they operate!!

As I have explained before I work in three schools! One culinary school and two high schools. The ages I work with range from 12 to 40 years old and boy is it difficult! I work with so many different classes it is impossible to keep them straight and sometimes when I arrive at school that day I don’t even know what classes I am going to teach and well…it’s hard to be prepared! I was able to negotiate a three-day work week which has been incredibly nice! Having to commute to work makes for a longer day and so it is nice to only have to go in three days! I work a total of 12 hours a week, spread out between three days. I am at my schools for roughly five and a half hours everyday!

My job in the classroom is to be the language and culture assistant. Mostly helping with the pronunciation of words, the meaning of words, and learning about the American culture. Although in the culinary school things are sometimes a little different this is for the most part my job! I work with the classroom teacher because I am not solely responsible for teaching the class. Most of the time the teacher will give me half the class to work on English while the other half of the class they continue with their regular lessons. Sometimes I sit in on the class and observe how they conduct class and what they are learning about.

The school day starts at 8:30 in the morning! Class is roughly one hour long. They are called hours…so sometimes they say ‘at the third hour I have 2nd year students.’ They also have a different naming system for what we think of as the different grades in the US. Sadly I still don’t fully understand how it works! The students start at the Instituto or the secondary school at age 12 and begin ESO (Educacion Secudaria Obligatoria). This goes until they are 16 years old. They then have the option to continue with schooling or they can be done. After 16 years old school is not compulsory. If they continue they take two more years of school which is called Bachillerato. From here once they finish this schooling they go to the University. All schooling in Spain is free, paid for by the government.

At one of the high schools I work with 4 different classes. One on Wednesday and three on Thursday. They are all students in the language program which means they are some of the best students at the school! This I have learned not take for granted one bit! In these classes I work with two different teachers who thankfully speak English really well and are extremely helpful! In one class we are reading a simple chapter book to learn more vocabulary and to practice reading and translating. In my other classes we are using the textbook to guide our teaching and do more conversation and speaking classes to practice. At the end of the year these students will be taking what is called the Cambridge exams in which they have to give a monologue speech. In this school we have an office for all the Language teachers! Like I have said before the teachers go from classroom to classroom during the day and just have their own desk in one designated room. It ends up having the feel of a teacher’s lounge.

 

At this school I hardly have any problems with discipline and if I do the teacher usually steps in and takes care of it. It is not our job to be the disciplinary in the classroom because we are only assistants not the actual teachers. I find the schools to be very plain and  they look a lot different from the schools we have in the US but then again sometimes schools in the US can have elaborate decor and such. For example this is one hallway in the school…

 

Valle del Oja-High School in Santo Domingo

 

The other high school I work at…well thats just a different story! It is a catholic high school outside of Santo Domingo. I work with the same ages here students who are in ESO. But ever since my first day here…I just have not felt welcome and the teachers are not very easy to communicate or work with. It is challenging every week. Thankfully I only work here once on a week on Wednesday mornings for only two hours. One teacher has kind of made it her responsibility to be in charge of me and take me to each class I work with. Each week I never know what age of am going to be working with and I hardly know any of the students or teachers…mostly I just feel like an unwanted visitor most of the time. Each week I get the question…”Elizabeth do you have something prepared.” The teacher expects me to have already known beforehand what class I am teaching and what they should be learning at this level thats right! These students also make teaching here incredibly challenging. Another very big difference from schools here and schools in the US… their discipline in the classroom. It’s simply that they have NONE! There is no control in the classroom and I just don’t understand how they get anything done!! Teachers will often say shhhhhhhhh or snap their fingers to get the student’s attention. But most of the time in all my classes at both high schools it is so loud I can’t hear myself talk! The students I have found also have little responsibility at school. They have little homework and sometimes I find them just sitting in their chair on their cell phone or doing something else without any instruction from the teacher!

With these students I am working on the same preparation for the cambridge exams as I am in the other high school! So they need practice with conversation and speaking. But this is extremely difficult! The students do not want to speak and if I ask them a question they look at me with a blank stare on their face! Most of my students have an okay understanding of English so that when I am teaching if I speak in a loud voice and say my words slowly they can more or less understand me! A few of my classes though have a lower level of English and that makes it that much more challenging!

The high school outside of Santo Domingo

Lastly my experience at the culinary school has been great! I work here all three days of the week. I work with a large variety of students studying different majors and they are of all ages! It is really great to be able to teach them English with a purpose because they are learning it for their future jobs! It is really fun to be able to work with these students because they enjoy learning the language and they realize how useful it may be in the future! I work with receptionists, chefs, waiters, and pastry chefs!

The front of the culinary school!

But some good news…I was paid by my schools for the month of October! As many people know Spain is in a crisis so pay was something all of us were concerned about when we decided to work in this program. I am very grateful my schools are able to pay me and that is one less thing I have to worry about!

 

 

First visitors in Spain!

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My parents made a weekend trip out to visit me in Logroño!! We got to spend four days together visiting the sites of La Rioja, tasting some great vinos, and of course some great Riojana cuisine!

They arrived on Wednesday afternoon about the same time my bus arrived home from work at the bus station. We met there and immediately it felt so crazy to actually have my parents in the city where I have been living for so long!! We got them checked into the hotel then I brought them over to my place so they could check it out! I also got to unpack the suitcase full of stuff they brought me from home! It was like Christmas to receive a whole suitcase full of food, and shoes, and stuff for my private lessons. We explored the city for a little while then we went to find some pinchos! Not much was open but we managed to find a few places! It’s always fun to be with someone when they are trying pinchos for the first time! The lifestyle of going from bar to bar only to have a small snack is so interesting and unique. Later we found a great local restaurant to try some food from La Rioja. It was only my third time eating out here in Logroño!

Thursday I had to work so my parents met me in Santo Domingo and they were able to see the city where I work! We got a tour of the culinary school and had lunch in the restaurant of the school! We were served by some of my students and we ate with the English teacher I work with. Later that afternoon Mercedes and Eduardo invited us over for some wine and cheese (but also chorizo because we are in Spain!) so that they could meet and get to know my parents! I already knew it was going to be a little difficult because I was going to have to do some translating because my parents don’t speak Spanish and Mercedes only speaks so much English! It was really great though…Mercedes was able to communicate really well with my parents and I did some translating especially for Eduardo. Overall everyone had a great time! Finally it was the weekend, time to have fun and explore the region some more.

We took a day trip out to the pueblo Elciego to visit the Marques de Riscal bodega and to go on a tour of Mercedes family winery. We rented a car here in Logro for the day because with the bus schedules it was not possible to travel out there by bus. It was only about a 20 minute drive by car out to the bodega and we arrived right on time for our visit! This is definitely the bodega to visit in La Rioja and we were all impressed!

The hotel at the Marques de Riscal bodega

So many barrels!

The tour was definitely one of the best yet and the architecture is unbelievable! It was over an hour and a half…but we saw a lot! The bodega itself is very big and there is a lot to see! Of course at the end we were all looking forward to the wine tasting! We tried one of the white wines and one of the reds! They were both very good! Unfortunately we couldn’t linger drinking too long because we were supposed to meet Mer and her father at the family bodega Pago de Larrea! Although I had already been here I wanted to take my parents so they could see the place behind all the stories and so they could meet Mercedes’s dad! We got a quick tour of the bodega and then of course we got to try some wine! Later we went for a walk through Elciego to visit Mer’s family house.

Walking through Elciego

Of course our tour did not stop there! Our next stop was to drive to another pueblo, Laguardia for lunch! We walked around the city, meandering inside the stone walls. It is not a very big city but it is on a hill which gives great views of the mountains and the surrounding vineyards! Unfortunately it was very foggy everyday my parents were here so they did not get to see the mountains! We had lunch then decided to go exploring for a little while because we had the car and a little day light left! We ended up getting lost on some back roads driving through vineyards and pueblos. The views were amazing! I even got to drive a little to practice my stick skills since all cars here are manual!

Getting lost in the mountains of La Rioja!!


We also spent a few nights on Laurel…experiencing the pincho scene and trying some of my favorite things! 🙂 There are so many different pinchos to choose from its so impossible! But we had a great time trying many of them and of course drinking some La Rioja vino! But unfortunately after so much fun it was time for them to leave! Time passed so quickly but I know I will see them next month for Christmas so I don’t have too long to wait!

 

Taking advantage of the first puente!!

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In Spain they have holidays or breaks called “puentes.”  Puente in Spanish literally means a bridge. Since this past Thursday was a holiday known here in Spain as “dia de todos los santos” or in the United States “All Saints Day” we got the day off of school and Friday off as well. This was nice for us Americans because Wednesday was Halloween and usually in the US this holiday while it is celebrated does not mean we get the day off of school or the next day! Wednesday night a few friends and I went out to Calle Laurel to check out the Halloween scene in Spain. This holiday is relatively new for the Spaniards as they have apparently been only celebrating it for about ten years or so. It is just now becoming more and more popular…especially with the teens. Sure there is no trick or treating because everyone lives in apartments but they do get into the Halloween spirit with scary costumes and candy! Here in Spain they only have the concept that costumes are to be scary! A funny to costume to them is very strange. There were even some shops and restaurants that had Halloween decorations out! To make the day even better we celebrated in the culinary school on Wednesday! One of the teachers I work with decorated the cafe with decorations and all the students working in the cafe were dressed up! We spent a little while down there soaking in the Halloween fun since I knew I wasn´t going to get to experience it anywhere else that day!

The cafe at the culinary school all decked out for Halloween!

One of favorite bars on Laurel!

Thursday was a very relaxing day  since it was a holiday because most people stay in and everything is closed…all shops and most restaurants. Later that afternoon the family left for San Sebastian. I invited some friends over to my apartment to bake because we had been dying to bake and I wanted to show everyone my apartment! We made some delicious chocolate cookies with toblerone and m&ms!! It was quite the experience using the oven and using foreign ingredients but they definitely turned out very well! Later we went out for pinchos and we tried two new things!! So far we are on a streak of only trying new pinchos and its going so well! We make it a point to search out something we haven´t tried! Sometimes even a whole new bar!!

New Pincho- Trifasico it is full of jamon, queso, and zucchini!

Manchego cheese and riojana jelly

Then it was finally time to take advantage of vacation! On Friday two friends and I took a day trip to the city Pamplona. The place where they have the running of the bulls every summer in July! It was incredible to be able to walk through the street where the bulls run through and to imagine what it is like in the summer! We caught an early bus from Logro to get us into Pamplona with the whole day to tour around! We were lucky enough to meet another auxiliar from England on the bus. She lives in a pueblo called Estella and heard us speaking English on the bus so she came over to chat. She said she has friends in Pamplona and has visited before and would be happy to show us around before she had to catch her bus. We started off the morning with a visit to a bakery of course to sample some local creations that are always so delicious!  It was unbelievable weather and we had a great walk around the whole city! We saw the Plaza de toros where the bulls end up after their short trek through the city streets! We also saw the location where they start the running of the bulls! We ended up finding a great place for lunch and stopped and had a delicious meal! It is always fun to try the menu del dia here in Spain which is fancy for a 3 course meal at a fixed price. You choose a first course, second, course, and then desert. Although this is not too common in the states, here it is very common to see these menus all over the streets in Spain! It is usually a pretty good deal and extremely filling! Check out these two dishes I had!

Amazing salad!!

Tarta de trufa!

Plaza de toros

Beautiful walk around the city

Later that night we headed back to Logroño and I quickly packed and cleaned the apartment a little because I was catching another bus to head up to San Sebastian to meet the family for the weekend! They invited me to stay with them for the weekend! This city is on the northern coast of Spain and is on the beach 🙂 It was about a 2 and a half hour bus ride up there and by the time I got there I was exhausted! We headed out for tapas- Basque style and did a quick walk around the city before it was time to call it a day! Saturday we had unbelievable weather for this normally rainy city so we took complete advantage of it! Leaving the house at 10am we did not return until well after dark! We walked around “la concha” which is the most famous beach there and around the old part of the city! It is a gorgeous city full of fancy houses, well dressed wealthy people, and lots of seafood! Eduardo had been promising me all day we were going to have the best “chuleton” for lunch just wait for it!! So all day I was looking forward to this great meal! We saw the cathedral, and also the great theater where they hold the San Sebastian Film Festival every fall! It was cool to see because we had just watched in on tv sometime last month!! Finally it was time for lunch! I quickly discovered chuleton is a type of steak. Basically like a thick filet of meat! You order chuleton by the kilo…LOL. So we ordered chuleton for three people. This means .45 kilos per person and a total of a little over 1 kilo for the three of us. Hmmm how much is that you might ask. We don´t use kilograms, or kilometers, or meters and boy is it annoying sometimes! Well it was one of the BIGGEST steaks I had ever seen!!! We estimated about 2 pounds of steak…but again with our calculations we weren´t really sure. I really wish I had taken a picture but was way too hungry to think about it at the time!! We also had two delicious salads and sidra to drink! This is a natural cider. It was an unbelievable lunch and we all left way too full and a little crazy after too much sidra.

We took full advantage of the great afternoon and walked along the beach and some areas of the city I hadn´t seen before calling it a day! Sunday we had awful weather so we decided to spend the afternoon in the aquarium to check out the history of the port of San Se and to see all the fish! Check out this great pic Edu captured of me in the tunnel!

La Concha Beach

The family 🙂

She is so adorable I can’t take enough pictures!!

Cathedral de Buen Pastor

Beautiful panoramic night view of the beach!

Overall I had a blast and really liked the city! Definitely would like to go back while I am here when the weather is nice of course! I told Mercedes I want to live here! She told me she would join me…maybe a place to retire 😉

 

A Day Full of Wine!!

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If there is one thing I have learned since living in Spain for 7 weeks so far…is that they sure do have a lot festivals! Earlier in the week I had heard about a grape stomping festival in a small pueblo outside of Logroño happening on the weekend. This was definitely not something I could pass up! I had always seen pictures of people stomping grapes with their feet and heard about it happening during the wine harvest but never imagined I would actually get to take part in it!! My friend A and I had also made plans to visit a bodega in the city of Haro later Saturday afternoon!

Without much of a plan for the day A and I met up at the bus station to head out for the day! We ended up meeting with a few other auxiliars in the bus station which was great because we were not exactly sure what we were doing!! It was about a 30 minute bus ride to the pueblo of San Asensio where the wine stomping festival was. We made our way through the streets and ended up finding a few locals headed to the festival as well! We told them we were from the United State’s and of course their reaction was ‘ay dios mio’ so funny! They told us a little bit about the festival and brought us to the bodega.

A view of the festival outside the bodega

Old wine barrel

We got a tour a the bodega which was very old and we even got to go underground into some caves to see some of the old machinery they used and the cellars where the store the wine. After this was finished it was time for some wine tasting of course! We were able to buy a ticket to taste one of the wines as well as get a sandwich with chorizo! Both were very delicious! After we had all had some wine we headed over to check out the stomping of the grapes in another part of the bodega! We headed over there to check out the action!! There was already a group of people stomping on the grapes and we couldn’t believe what we saw!!

So many grapes!

We waited our turn to stomp on the grapes! Before getting in we only had to dip our feet in freezing cold water 🙂 The grapes were so squishy and warm! I’m pretty sure all of us could have stayed in there forever squishing away but eventually the old man with the pitchfork told us it was time to get out. I guess we had to give some other people a turn!

So squishy!

 

This was definitely one of the highlights of living in Spain so far…and definitely one of the coolest benefits of living in wine country!

After we had taken part in all there was to do at the festival A and I headed to Haro where we had our winery tour scheduled for later that afternoon! We had a few hours to walk around the city and see what there was to see before heading to the winery. Unfortunately it was a miserably cold day and it was siesta time…so we walked around the city and were quickly ready to find a nice warm cafe to sit in and wait! Our tour of the CUNE winery was great and what made it even better was that it was in English! My first winery tour in English and man was it nice to actually be able to fully understand everything that was explained to me about the process of making wine! I was impressed by how famous the wine is and how much they produce each year! They also have a very unique aspect of the bodega known as the library of the dead wine! It is literally a library full of wine bottles with cobwebs all over them! Basically all the wine that was never sold goes here! It becomes gran reserva wine because it sits in the library until it is bought or it may sit in there forever.

Neat graffiti on the building in Haro

SO MANY bodegas!!!

CUNE bodega for all my Concordia peeps!

HARO on the hill!

 

The library of all the ‘dead wine’

A full day full of lots of wine but also a lot of fun! I can definitely say I am taking advantage of living in wine country, and am looking forward to visiting more bodegas!!

 

6 weeks later and it feels like I finally belong here!

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To all those faithful readers sorry I have not posted in a while! My week keeps getting busier and busier as I add more activities to my schedule! This weekend the family took me to a local winery very close to Logroño called Campo Viejo. This Rioja wine is pretty popular in the United States so I was excited to get to see where they make it! Unfortunately we have had an unbelievably rainy fall so we only toured the winery itself inside, but it was beautiful! It is one of the bigger wineries in La Rioja! I cannot remember the total number of bottles they produce every year but the number was in the millions! Unfortunately the tour was in Spanish and it was with about 30 other people so most of the time it was impossible for me to understand the explanations but I was definitely able to see the massive amount of wine barrels and vats there were! After the tour was finished we got to try one of the wines and have some chorizo and salchicha! That was my favorite part 🙂

Saturday night I went to my first ever piso parties! A few auxiliars in my program were throwing a party in someone’s apartment for all of us axuiliars and some locals too! Mercedes and Eduardo were also going out separately with friends for the night. They decided it would be fun to have a competition to see who could get back the latest! I immediately knew I would lose big time…who can really keep up with those Spaniards!? Needless to say after the police came to both parties and we had our share of crazy Spanish teenagers at the discos it was time to head home at only 2:30!! What a crazy experience but I learned that I really need to work on my staying out late skills if I am ever going to go out like a local!

Another work week quickly approached as we all lounged around on Sunday after our crazy nights out! Finally feeling like I have developed a routine with my classes, this week went pretty smoothly. I have way too many classes during the week to remember which one is which or what we talked about last week so keeping them all straight is quite the challenge. I have begun taking notes and asking the teachers what types of topics they would like me to cover that way I am able to prepare something for the next class. They don’t seem to really follow any sort of curriculum here in their schools which makes it very difficult to feel like class is organized. It is something I am trying to adjust to but that is just one of the many differences about their school system here and ours in the United States.

I started a new English class with a 17 year old girl on Monday. She is interested in practicing her conversation skills with a native speaker. Her English was very good and I was impressed with how well she could speak! She has been to the US three times and also to England. We spent the whole hour talking about her travels, life in Spain, and about her family!

On Wednesday I met for the first time with my new intercambio! For those of you that don’t know what this is…it is a person local from Spain who is learning English. We meet to spend time talking in both Spanish and English so that we can each improve the language we are learning! It was a really great experience. She is a lady maybe in her 30’s and she extremely nice and friendly! We had a great conversation for about an hour and a half! It was the first intercambio I have had where I really felt like I wasn’t nervous to speak Spanish and I felt really good about how much practice I got! Hopefully it will really help me improve! We are going to meet up every Wednesday to chat and practice!

Crazy think that October is pretty much over and I have been here for almost 6 weeks! The holidays are approaching rapidly and before I know it I will have some visitors 🙂 Being here in Spain though means missing out on fall in the South which has been pretty sad! Since I live in the city I do not see many signs of fall like I would at home. There are not many trees to change colors, no pumpkins, and definitely no football! It’s just the little aspects of life in the US that I am beginning to miss here as time keeps flying by! But fall here means it’s time for wine harvest and chestnuts! Thankfully I have found a few friends here that share my love for baking so we are going to get together soon to bake some fall treats!

Next week’s post-schools in Spain and a tour of the town I work in, Santo Domingo!!

Taking advantage of the 3 day work week!

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First full week of teaching is finally done and now its time for the weekend! Thanks to a student led strike in the schools of Spain this Thursday, I only had one class on my last day of the week! I am not going to get into the political craziness of this country but I will explain a little about this student led strike. Most schools in Spain right now are free for students to attend. The government is in a crisis as we know and so there is no money…therefore they are going to be making some changes in the school systems and almost everyone is protesting against this movement. Little did I know that it is possible for the students in high school to protest and essentially not come to school for the day in a movement against the government. Many parents did not send their kids to school, some were given the option to either go to school or go to Logroño to the large protest in the streets, and there were a few that did come to school. The teachers are also in this movement against the government but today was a strike for the students. This sign was posted in my school:

Huelga-A protest!

Many of my students have asked me what I think about the idea of a student led protest. I have told them that I think it is crazy simply because something like this would never happen in the United States. Students are required to go to school and there is no way that we could just start a giant protest and tell everyone not to go to school! But that is a difference between their country and the country I come from! A couple of the teachers I work with today were a little grumpy about the whole idea because although most kids didn’t come to school there were a few that did and so for those few they still have to have class. One of my teachers told me he wouldn’t let their kids go to school today…he said they try to show their opposition to the government any way they can and so that is what they have to do!

Anyways…overall I had a pretty good week in all of my schools and classes. It was nice to actually have a full week and get to have a normal schedule. Monday’s are my favorite day of the week because I spend all day at the culinary school which I am loving!! After a busy morning full of classes I went down to the cafe in the school for the first time with another teacher! It is a very neat atmosphere down there because the students run the cafe. As a part of their curriculum they spend time learning how to run a cafe and do things like make coffee and take orders and serve customers! So yeah service is a little slow and sometimes you make ask for something and they give you the wrong thing but it was really neat to experience the chaos and to see the students learning! Many of my students were working at the cafe so that was also cool! After I had finished my drink I was walking out the door when two of my students came  up to me ‘teacher, teacher, will you try our pizza’ Ha! I was surprised! They had been cooking a pizza I guess as part of their class and they needed people to try it. So they sat me down at a table and served me a slice of pizza! It was actually very delicious and they were thrilled that I liked it! Needless to say I will definitely be wandering down to the cafe sometime soon to see if they are baking anything else and maybe get a snack 🙂

My last class of the day was a new class with pastry chef students! I am really excited about this class because I love to bake and the teacher would like me to teach the students English terms that have to do with baking and even some American recipes!! Next week we are spending the whole class creating a pastry that is related to Halloween!! Later we will do one for Thanksgiving and probably Christmas! Unfortunately the students have a very low-level of English which always makes class very difficult but hopefully I will be able to manage! In the afternoon I got to meet Mercedes parents at their apartment here in Logroño! I had met her dad before at the bodega a few weeks ago but this time I got to meet her mom as well! They are extremely friendly and welcoming! They asked me a ton of questions and were so impressed by how well my Spanish was! I can really tell that my understanding has improved so much since I have been here! We chatted with them for a while until it was time to head to the salon to get Clara’s haircut!! What an experience that was 🙂 I have never gone with a little toddler to get their haircut before but it was so hilarious!! She actually was really good during the whole appointment and only ended up with a little hair in her mouth at the end!

Tuesday I had off of work which was a nice way to catch up on sleep and run a few errands! Later in the afternoon I had my private lesson with the two kiddos which was really fun! They are using more and more English with me so it is fun to play games with them and have them repeat what I say and practice saying words. The little girl is a little shy so she only says something in English every once in a while but I know she is at least being exposed to my speaking and will hopefully begin to pick up a word here or there.

After a very frustrating morning on Wednesday at school I walked through the streets of Santo Domingo and found a local bread shop and decided to stop in to get a croissant! It was a way to make my day better and it was the biggest croissant I’ve ever had! It will be new go to spot during the my break between schools for sure! Later that day I spent the night out with friends bar hopping and even had a pincho or two! Although this one is not new to me I finally took a picture of it! It’s a pork sandwich cooked fresh when ordered and it is put on a toasted bun with a pesto type sauce! One of the most flavorful pinchos and a filling one! During the week there are not very many people out on the streets to get pinchos so it is more chill and easier for us non locals  to make our way to the counter to order food!!

Pincho Tio Agus

And of course one last adorable picture of Clara! Mercedes does pilates so she has taught Clarita a few moves. She loves to show me how well she does them so one night this week she started practicing pilates in the living room!

An update on teaching!

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Another week in Logroño has come and gone full of ups and downs! This week I only worked two days…Wednesday and Thursday because I was not given a full schedule yet. Next week I will finally work a full week at all schools with all of my classes. I only work Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday! That leaves Tuesday and Friday as free days which is so nice! Since I have to come to Santo Domingo from Logro I was able to negotiate another day off of work!

On Tuesday I decided to take a spontaneous trip to a nearby pueblo for something to do in the morning! Instead of sitting at home I decided it would be fun to check out a new place! With the help of a friend I caught a bus to the pueblo Navarrete! It was only about a 15 minute drive from Logroño! I explored around the area and saw most of what there was to see in the tiny square and surrounding streets! This is another stop on the famous trail the Camino de Santiago so I saw many pilgrims and even heard some English 🙂 In the afternoon I met with a family in Logro for private lessons! They have two kids. One boy who is eight years old and a girl who is five years old. I am going to work with both of them! The boy is learning English in school so weekly I will work with him on stuff he is learning from his English textbook.

Church in Navarrete

Blue shell sign–Camino de Santiago

Pretty views everywhere you look!

Then came Wednesday…my second day of work since living in Spain. It was my first day at the third school I was assigned to. I had never been there and was not entirely sure where it was located. All I knew was that it was a little ways outside of the town of Santo Domingo and it would be best to catch a bus to get there. I was not given any other information and had to figure it out on my own! I arrived in Santo Domingo at the normal time around 8:15 and looked around the bus stop for information on the bus to Menesianos-the school I was headed to. Did not find anything useful so I attempted to ask someone. They either did not understand me or did not know where the school was. I decided to use my google maps on my phone and attempt to find the school myself. With about 15 minutes until I had to be there I was frantically walking around Santo Domingo looking for signs of students or a large building. Lost and out of time I got very frustrated and decided to attempt to make my way back to the center of town to get my bearings! I stopped in a couple of cafes to ask for help but for some reason nobody knew where Menesianos was!! I then headed to the high school I work at because I knew where it was and knew they were friendly enough to be able to offer me some help! I got directions from the lady in the office and she said “you have to walk to Menesianos!?” Then I discovered yeah…I had to walk there. A 20 minute walk along the high way and hopefully at the end of the road I would see the school!

This was me…

Leaving Santo Domingo…hope I can find my way back!

Finally found the school!!

What a disaster! I was only about an hour late for work and the teachers were not so happy to greet me at the door! Almost in tears they were asking me ‘where have you been?’ ‘we have been waiting for you’. Needless to say I am happy I only have to go to that school only two hours a week on Wednesdays! Hopefully next week I will be to able to catch the bus and will have figured out how to avoid walking! After class I was driven from this school to the culinary school for two classes which I really enjoyed! I taught a class on hotel management/receptionist. They are very curious to learn phrases and words we use in hotels. One that they really enjoyed was the word sightseeing! They had heard the word before but were very unsure what it meant or how to use it!

My experiences so far as the “language assistant” in the classroom for the most part have been very positive! I have felt as though my knowledge and speaking abilities are highly valued among the teachers and some of the students. I was unsure before coming to Spain what exactly my role in the classroom would be or how I would be accepted as a native speaker from the United States. While most of the English the students learn in the classroom is British English they still value my ability to speak to them in English and to correct anything they say or write. In the high school I have found that I am used more as an assistant than in the culinary school. At the high school so far I have only been used to incorporate English into part of the lesson or to explain something in the lesson as we would do it in the United States. The students are very interested in how different things are there as compared to here. It is fun to talk to them about the differences and for them to get to practice their English by asking me questions. In the culinary school on the other hand I am more involved in the teaching which I really enjoy. This also means the classes are almost totally in English because I am the only one speaking! Overall it has been a very positive experience in the classroom and I can’t wait to see how the English levels progress and to see what they learn!

Thursday went smoothly with three hours at the high school and one hour at the culinary school but man was I tired by the time this day was over! These were the only classes I had seen before because it was the only day I worked last week!  Later in the afternoon I had my second private lesson with the family with two children. It went really well and the kids are also warming up to me and speaking more English. It is like pulling teeth to get them to say any words to me!! Happy to have Friday off means that it’s finally the weekend and I am so relieved! Traveling to and from Santo Domingo makes for long days and I am looking forward to the week I am finally comfortable in all my schools and with all my classes to have a more enjoyable time!

An inside look of the process of wine making!!

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Something I discovered on the first day of living with my host family was that Mercedes’s family owns a vineyard and produces their own wine! Imagine my excitement when I found this out at lunch when they first offered me a glass of wine from Bodgea Pagos de Larrea. Well at the time I was a little too jet lagged to enjoy a nice glass of wine with lunch! Little did I know I would be fortunate enough to experience all there is to know about wine and the wine making process!

This weekend began the harvesting of the grapes! When we arrived on Sunday afternoon they were finishing up the collection process! The vineyard is located in the Pueblo of Elciego…only about a 10 minute drive from Logroño. We pulled up the fields of grapes and it was amazing to see! I had never been to any type of vineyard before! Since the winery of Mercedes’s family is not very large the vineyard was smaller than most she told me! But to me all I could see in any direction were grapes and mountains! Check out this view!!

We walked through fields of grapes admiring the quantity and the size and color! In these fields they grow three types of grapes…crianza, cabernet sauvignon, and tempranillo. When we arrived there was a number of workers in the fields picking the last of the grapes. Overseeing them was a member of M’s family. He explained to us a little bit about what they were doing and informed us we had arrived just in time to see them picking the last grapes! Mercedes picked some grapes for Clara and I to try. Man they were so delicious!!

Clara and I with our grapes

The workers hand pick the grapes…going through each vine looking for the best ones! Seems like a tedious process but they have to only get the ones that will make the best quality wine! Each worker seemed to carry a large bucket and a pair of cutting shears like we use in the US. When they have a full bucket they deposit them here!

From here they are taken to be weighed as well as other things through a process that was a little complicated to understand in Spanish! This was the only part of the process that I did not get to see. Afterwards they are brought to the winery! Then the process begins to get very interesting! From the vineyard we drove to the winery to get a tour of the building and to meet with more of M’s family to watch the process! The family seems to treat this process as some sort of celebration almost! That is the feeling I got from being surrounded by all of them! I got to meet Mercedes’ father who was more than eager to tell me all about the process and all things related to wine! I also met many cousins of Clara and a few aunts! It is so fun to meet the family! They treat me like I am a member and it so welcoming!!

Then came time for unloading of the grapes from the trailer and the separation of the grapes from the stems. They have a machine  that takes the grapes and separates them all from the stems and turns them into liquid while keeping the skins intact! This part is crucial so the wine maintains its color. The juice is then pumped out of this machine through pipes into giant containers where it will sit for a while.

The entire machine used to detach the grapes and to pump them into the container

A load of grapes ready to turned into wine!

All of the stems left over!

During this process M gave me a tour of the rest of the winery. We walked into the storage room where they have over 200 barrels of wine! She explained to me a little about how they use different types of barrels from different places. This provides it with a different flavor depending on which barrel they place it in! She said they do use some barrels made from wood in the United States! We also got to see hundreds of bottles stored on shelves marked with the year they were made. Most were the Reserva label from 2006 on up waiting for their year to be sold in stores.

Barrels of wine!

The last thing to see inside the winery were the giant containers of grape juice/wine. From the machine that first takes the grapes off the stems the juice is pumped here into these giant containers where it is first juice…then becomes wine! It sits in containers like these for 2-3 days before they change the temperatures to allow fermentation to begin!

In front of the containers full of wine…fermenting

Since they had been picking grapes for the past few days most of these containers were already full and some had already begun the fermenting process. The one in the back to my right with the yellow tube on top is the one they were filling while we were there. After it was full we got to taste the juice right out of the giant container that had been created through the process I described earlier! It was so delicious!! Crazy to think that in just a few days it will become wine!

It was incredible experience to be able to learn first hand the process of wine making…and to learn it all from my local family was so great! To me it seems like such a complicated process that deserves so much time and energy but in the end it is all worth it! In our apartment here in Logro we always have bottles of wine from the Bodega so we always get to enjoy it!

Outside of the winery

To end this great day I met up with some friends later in the evening to watch my first real fútbol match here in Spain! Madrid and Barca were playing…only one of the biggest games of the year! We went to a nearby bar and sat and watched the game with a room full of locals! It was intense, full of drama, and included lots of cheering and yelling! Of course it is not the same for us American folk because I did not care which team won but it was an experience to watch the locals get into the game so much they practically fell of their seat with excitement or nervousness! Tomorrow begins another week of work…lucky for me since I do not have a schedule yet I do not have to work until Wednesday!

 

First week of school…or just a one day work week!!

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Sorry for the delay in posting!! My uneventful week ended in catching a stomach bug so I have been trying to recover!! I had been waiting all week to find out when I am supposed to start working! I finally got a call Wednesday morning from one of my teachers!

Thursday was my first day teaching in Santo Domingo! After waiting two weeks to begin work I thought that this day would never come! It was an interesting experience to say the least…and I learned very quickly just how different things are here in Spain compared to those in the United States!! I still do not have a concrete schedule unfortunately…but I do know what I am doing two out of the 5 days of the week! That is progress! The scheduling is very difficult because I am in three schools in Santo Domingo. Three schools that are in charge of talking to each other to plan my schedule because in the program there is no ‘middle man’ to say I am working here at this time and then going to the next school. There has been a lot of confusion and not very much communication between everybody. Hopefully by sometime next week I will have a set schedule and can finally get into the routine of working!

For my first day of work I went to two out of the three schools I was placed in. The first, Valle de Oja, is a high school. I am working with two teachers in the language department. One teacher I work with has one class learning English and the other teacher I work with has two classes learning English. I had to arrive at Santo Domingo at 8:30 to begin work! This meant I had to catch a 7:15am bus from Logro…WAY too early! Trying not to fall asleep on the bus so I didn’t miss my stop, I got to admire the beautiful landscape of La Rioja! I made my way to the school without getting lost and felt like I was one of the first people to arrive! Immediately met with the English teacher I had previously spoken with last week on my visit. He took me to what is known as the salon for teachers. Basically this is a room with 8 teachers’ desks and a lot of resources. Since the teachers move from classroom to classroom they must have one place to keep all of their supplies. There I met the other English teacher at the school and talked with her for a few minutes before heading to class! She was really great and spoke very good English! It is really nice to be able to communicate so well with the teachers I am working with! As soon as we walked into class I began to get a little nervous! It has been 5 months since I have been in the classroom and I had forgotten what it is like!! I did a quick introduction of myself in my loudest and slowest teacher voice. Then the students were asked to use their English to ask me questions while introducing themselves! I got asked numerous questions!! Anything from do you have any pets, do you like Justin Bieber, have you tried Tortilla de Patatas, and even which do I think is prettier… American girls or Spanish girls (was clearly very unsure of how to answer that to a student). Had two more class periods just like this but with a variety of ages. I think the students ages varied from 13-18.

Overall I felt like the morning went very well and as expected! The students were less disciplined that what I am used to in the United States, which at times made it hard to communicate or feel like I had authority. I was told by one of the teachers I am working with that all the students in the language program were hand chosen based on a number of things and that they are some of the best students in the school! I am very happy about this because he said that this means the students actually want to learn English. During this conversation I brought up the point that in the United States students are generally required to take a certain number of years of a language to graduate and therefore could care less about learning it!

After I was done at the high school I had to head over to the culinary school to work from 12 to 2pm. I met up with the English teacher I am working with and we talked a little bit about the different types of classes he teaches and he showed me the textbooks they use. I only went to one class at this school. It was a mix of older students from 19-27. This class had a different feel than the ones at the high school. The students were much more mature but still didn’t know much English. These students in this class are studying tourism and the travel industry. After this class was over I waited an hour to catch a ride back to Logro with a few teachers. At this point I was starving because it was nearly three and I hadn’t eaten since 7!!! Yikes! This schedule is going to be something to get used to that’s for sure!

I am really looking forward to having a full week of work! I am also working on setting up a few private English classes with locals here in Logro. I do not have much planned this weekend because I am still trying to recover from getting sick at the end of this week! Harvest time is beginning here in La Rioja country so I am very anxious to get out to some vineyards to experience wine production!

Like a Local in Logroño!

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Well I have been in Spain for almost two weeks and I am starting to feel like a local! I can’t believe how fast these two weeks have gone! I guess they have just been filled up with the excitement of a new place with lots to explore! I can now say I know where my favorite places are to get pinchos, how to use the local bus system, and where I love to get my favorite baguette and fruit! I have really begun to enjoy the Spanish lifestyle as well! There are several parts of the Spanish lifestyle that are so different from our way of life in the US. Some things I have enjoyed…and then there are others have been hard to become accustomed too. But since I am trying to live like a local there are just some things that I just have to accept! I have easily adjusted to the food schedule here…eating a large lunch at 2pm and then a small dinner at around 9:30. For the most part my family has helped me adjust to this because I eat with them for every meal! One thing that is hard to adjust to is the size of the breakfast they have here! It is normal to just have a few crackers and a piece of toast with jam for breakfast here…and that is all you eat until lunch at 2!! I have also really enjoyed the siesta time in the afternoon which is just quiet time in the house after lunch! It is great for a quick nap…which I usually need or some time to Skype the ones I miss from home! Then after the siesta it is normal to ‘dar un paseo en la calle’ to go for a walk around town! I also feel like I finally know my way around the city pretty well and can navigate where I want to go without getting lost. Although Logroño is not that big of a city, it has taken me a little while to figure out the best way to get somewhere and how to get to all my friend’s pisos.

On Thursday we had our orientation for the program! It was at a local high school from 9-2! At the meeting we received a lot of information about the school system in Logro and what their goal is for us. We also were told several times that they are very positive about La Rioja’s economic status and they do think that we will be paid on time in November!! I hope that this is true but I guess we will find out in November!! We also filled out a form to get our medical card to use here in Spain! At the meeting I met a few new auxiliares that will be living in Logroño! I feel like now after two weeks I have met a lot of people and it is fun to have a large group of people to get together with!

This weekend my host family took me to Laguardia and Elciego, two pueblos outside of Logroño. In Laguardia we walked around the streets which are inside the walls that surround the city! Unfortunately it was raining and very cold while we were there so we walked around and saw all that they wanted to show me and then we went inside to have a glass of wine! After, we got back in the car and drove to Elciego! This is the pueblo where Mercedes is from. Her family owns a house there and during the summer the entire family spends the summer there! We had lunch at a local restaurant before walking around! At the restaurant I tried Spain’s version of bacon…definitely interesting. It was more just the fat…not the crunchiness we are used to. After we ate we walked around the pueblo on the way to Mercedes parents house. It was a very old house with many rooms and a lot of antiques! A very cool experience!

A wine train in Laguardia

view on the streets of Elciego

Checking out the gardens of the house!

Just cheesin’ in the street!

Today is in a way the last day of my “vacation” as Mercedes keeps telling me because now it’s time to start work! Supposedly tomorrow is the first day of work for the program but I have no information on what I am supposed to do on this first day!  I am looking forward to having a more structured day and to start teaching again!! I am also working on setting up some private English lessons with some locals around Logro!

Stay tuned for a post about how this first week of teaching went!

A Post for Mostly Pictures!

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I have finally gotten around to taking pictures of my apartment! I wanted to share with you what my place looks like…especially how spacious my room is!!

My room 🙂

View of my room from the door!

My bathroom! I share it with Clara so we get fancy frog decor 🙂

The living room and dining room!

Our kitchen!!

Overall the apartment is working out really well and I am really enjoying living with the family! Clara has finally become comfortable with me and she enjoys playing games and trying to talk to me in Spanish! Most of the time though I cannot figure out what she says so she gets a little confused when I don’t respond to her! I have tried talking to her more in English! For the most part I spend a lot of time in the living room watching tv with the family or in my room! During siesta time they are home relaxing in the living room and I enjoy spending time with them and talking! We have talked a lot about my hometown of Peachtree City because to them it is very intriguing! Eduardo has googled it many times and has asked numerous questions about it! There are MANY differences between my home and here 🙂

I was successful in getting both a bank account and a working phone! Mercedes went with me to the bank and we were able to easily set up an account this time around! It is very helpful to have M there with me because most of the time when the person working with me talks too fast for me to understand she is able to slowly explain what they said or explain it in a different way! For the phone I was able to get a micro sim card for my iphone and a simple pay as you go plan with the company movistar! I am really happy I was able to get a plan with my iphone because it is so useful here! I can use the internet to text for free, and even call for free!

I have also met a few new friends this week which has been great! My friends circle here in Logro is slowly increasing as more and more people arrive here from the program! Most of us connect through facebook which is a huge blessing! I don’t know how I would know anyone if it wasn’t for that! Meeting new friends means of course that we have to go out for more pinchos! I have tried a few new ones and took pictures to share! I can’t imagine the day when I have tried all of the pinchos here because there are so many! I already have a few favorites! What is interesting here is that on the two famous streets for pinchos Calle Laurel and Calle San Juan almost every bar is known for one specialty they serve and it is not like something you can find at any other bar. Here are a few pictures of some recent ones!

Queso de cabra, jamon, y frambuesa-Goat cheese, ham, and strawberry jelly on a toasty bread!

Croqueta de Jamon-Croquet with ham

Patatas Bravas-yummm! -Potatoes in a mayonnaise and spicy tomato sauce

On Tuesday I got the opportunity to take the bus out to visit the town of Santo Domingo where my three schools are located. It is about a 45 minute bus ride from Logro and it is a pretty drive past a lot of wine country and small pueblos. I arrived and met up with Francisco the English teacher at one of the schools I’ll be working at! He was very friendly and very helpful in showing me around the city! Santo Domingo is a small little town with a very different feel from Logro. I will be working in three schools…one culinary and two high schools. The culinary school is for students 18 years up to 40. It is what we think of in the US as a culinary school to an extent but it has its differences. It is also for people studying to be a waitress…which is not something we have in the US. At this school I will be teaching English terms for everything related to cooking and waitressing. I will also be teaching American recipes! I am really looking forward to working at this school! Hopefully I will learn a lot during my time there! The other school I visited with Francisco was the high school I will be working at. We met the teacher and he told me he has three groups of language students. I feel like this is going to be a challenge but we will see! I will be at both of these schools 5 hours a week. The last two hours of the week will be spent at a school 30 minutes from Santo Domingo and I have no information on it yet. It’s a bit of a mystery. Still do not have a set schedule but I am hoping I will have one very soon so I can start planning!

This is a picture I took of the drive out to Santo Domingo!

Lastly I got another picture of this cutie! Even though she is in the terrible two’s she is really fun!

Playing on mom’s phone! Love that smile!

New Experiences mixed with an extravagant festival!

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These first five days in Spain have flown by! Adjusting to the lifestyle of a Spaniard has been somewhat challenging but some changes  just have to be accepted I guess… 🙂 Staying out until 3am and sleeping until noon only to take a siesta three hours later…this is the life…well until work starts I guess!

This week was the last of the festival of San Mateo. It ended today the 22nd. It is hard to imagine that everything will be back to normal on Monday! Since I arrived during the festivities it seems normal that there are concerts at all hours of the day and night and the streets are crowded with people and parades! But Eduardo tells me people will go back to work and school and everything will end! Sadly for me because I really have been trying to take advantage of all the festivities but oh well! There are a lot of concerts throughout the city! I have seen a few that are of local tradition which have been interesting and a few that are done by a dj with a mix of American music and Spanish music. It has been an experience getting to enjoy all of these festivities with people of all ages! That is another part of the culture that takes some getting used to!

Two nights ago the family I am living with took me with them when they went to the fair that is going on for the festival! It is what we think of in the US as like a festival that would be in town with some small rides and booths along with fried dough and cotton candy! It was really fun but so Spanish! There were booths where you could win a Ham leg, and booths that sold churros! Yes please! Clara rode a ride…honestly one of the scariest little kid rides I’ve ever seen and then we got churros and snacked on them while we walked around! I have really enjoyed getting to know them and spending a lot of time with them! They have included me in a lot of activities they have done around town and it has been nice to see the city through the eyes of locals…especially during this time of fiesta! Clara is slowing warming up to me and will now say ‘hola Beth’ or ‘hello’ without being prompted which makes me smile every time! Soon when she is comfortable with me I will speak more to her in English because that is what her parents want me to do!

Clarita! She is adorable! 🙂

Churros mmmmm 🙂

The past three nights I have gone out with friends to explore the pincho scene! A pincho is just like a tapa, a small meal like a bowl of potatoes, a small sandwich, or tortilla de patata. There are two main streets here in Logroño that are full of bars and of course that means ALWAYS full of people! So far I have tried several different pinchos and of course some vino! The tortilla of course if my favorite…but there are so many more that I have yet to try! I have been able to connect with many friends that I met on facebook through a group we created for the people in the program in La Rioja! It has been really helpful to be able to communicate with others and to make plans!

Pincho-Tortilla de Patata

Earlier this week I also attempted to get a cell phone and a bank account. Neither of which have been successful yet unfortunately! I hope that on Monday I will have everything figured out and will actually be able to use my cell phone outside of the house! I am at least able to use the wifi in the house on my iphone for the most part to communicate with everyone but it is difficult to leave touch once I am out on the street! One thing I was successful at finally this week was cooking! I went to the grocery store this afternoon to buy some supplies and I cooked my first lunch in the apartment! It went very smoothly and I had a delicious lunch of sausage and rice! Can’t wait for my next meal!

Stay tuned for pictures of the apartment and next week’s adventures! xoxo

First Days in España!

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Can’t believe I am finally here! The journey over was pretty uneventful! A 8 1/2 hour flight to Madrid landed me in a cloudy morning in what seemed eerily like I was back out West! I was able to sleep a few hours on the flight over. I made the foggy walk to clear customs and immigration which were no problem and picked up my bags at baggage claim! I then had to make it over to terminal four to purchase my bus ticket to Logroño. I made it to the terminal easily and immediately found two friends I was hoping to meet up with right near the bus ticket kiosk! I got my ticket and after an hour was headed out to Logroño.

The ride was about 4 hours long! The last part of it was a beautiful drive through the mountains of northern Spain! I did not realize how mountainous it is up in this region. As soon as we arrived in Logroño I got off the bus to get my bags and noticed a guy looking at me kind of strange…figured it must be Eduardo the father in the piso I am living in. I got my bags and walked over and sure enough it was him! He said he had looked me up on facebook and that is how he knew what I looked like! We made it to the apartment and I was greeted at the door by Mercedes the mom and Clara their two year old daughter!! They immediately began talking to me in rapid fire Spanish and boy was it hard to keep up! Mercedes made lunch for us which was delicious! At lunch I found out that Mercedes family owns a vineyard and they make their own wine! After lunch I unpacked everything and it felt nice to have everything put away and not in suitcases! I can’t believe how big my room is still! Compared to my apartment last year in Salamanca this apartment is huge!

Later on in the evening we went on a walk around town! It was my first time really getting to see Logroño! This week is fiesta so there are a lot of activities going on all day and a lot of people out and about! Unfortunately the weather was not very nice so we did not do much! We did walk around the streets where there are many bars. We stopped by a place where you drink from a glass container that looks like a tea kettle but is taller and has a longer spout! You are supposed to tip it and pour the alcohol in your mouth! Key is to make it in your mouth 🙂 which I didn’t the first time! But it was definitely an interesting experience! The last thing we did before going back home was we watched a procession and a concert in one of the squares. During the concert there was some dancing and then some people were called up to step into barrels full of grapes to squish them with their feet!

Overall it was a pretty great day! I got to speak a lot of Spanish! Clara is taking a while to warm up to me but I think pretty soon she will feel more comfortable to talk to me! She is so adorable when she speaks Spanish but it is impossible to understand her!! Mercedes said that she is going to start at an English school once a week in October and that she wants me to speak to her is English. So once she is comfortable with me I will do that! Neither one of the parents speak much English but Mercedes can sometimes understand if I say something in English because I am not sure how to say it in Spanish.

I attempted to get both a bank account and a cell phone but both are difficult tasks that are going to be harder than I thought! The bank we went to said I have to have my residencia card before I can apply. The cell phone…ugh! We went to three different stores. The last one I had purchased the sim card for my iphone. At the counter I went to take out my sim card and place the new one in and it didn’t fit! The lady tried to tell me that Spanish iphones are different than ones in the United States and so no sim card will fit from here. What a lie! There is no reason they should be any different! To get confirmation we went to the apple store down the street! They told us the truth! After Mercedes chewed the lady out I got my money back and was left still without a cell phone. So frustrating! Eduardo tried his sim card in my phone because he has an iphone and has a plan with Movistar-a local phone company. It worked in my phone and he was able to call the house. Hopefully tomorrow we will go to Movistar and all my problems will be solved!

Time for a siesta! Xoxo

First Road Trip check! – A Journey out West!

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So the story goes…last month I met this pretty great guy and he happened to be going on a 6 week long road trip all over the country. Already planned before I met him! Since I am leaving for Spain on Monday my first reaction was well I’ve got to come out and join him on this trip at some point so that I can see him before I leave the country!

I flew out to meet him in Denver Colorado and the journey began there! We traveled around the West for 8 days! Lots of driving, lots of sightseeing, and lots of desert! 🙂  I got to see so many places I had never been before and got to travel down the coast of California…something I had only dreamed of doing because man that is a long state!!

First stop was The Grand Tetons in Wyoming! We drove into the park and stopped along the river there for a picnic! But before we could start eating we noticed a large group of people looking out into some woods! There out in some bushes was a moose!! So we stood and watched it for a while! Pretty cool sighting! Then we toured around the park saw some beautiful mountains and hiked down to this gorgeous view!

The Grand Tetons

Rhys and I

From The Grand Tetons we traveled west headed towards Oregon! Man this drive was rough! We traveled through a very mountainous region, followed by some desert and a whole lot of nothing! Not to be misleading because the views the entire trip were absolutely breathtaking! Sometimes it was hard to believe what I saw when I glanced out the window! With a short stop in a small town known as Pocatello, Idaho we continued our journey to Oregon making it to the great city of Bend, OR the next night.

Oregon was a state I always wanted to travel too because of all the natural beauty I knew was there in the thick forest and mountainous terrain! So when we finally reached this region I was extremely excited! Getting closer to our next stop Crater Lake national park, we began our drive from Bend to the park! We had only just begun our drive when we saw signs for a Lava Flow and what looked like a national park! So of course we had to stop! We were able to do some hiking around lava rock and see gorgeous views of the surrounding area of what was previously volcano territory!

 

 

 

 

Lava Rock Everywhere!!

 

 

Stopping to see many sights on the way to Crater Lake made the drive more enjoyable! Eventually we did make it to the park and we were blown away! This park is made up of a large lake surrounded by mountains and a lush landscape of some Oregon trees! I think this was by far my favorite stop on the trip and for a good reason! The views were unbelievable and the hiking was great too! Check out what we saw!

This view is amazing!

Crater Lake

Phantom Island 🙂

After some hiking and a snack it was time to continue on! We were California bound hoping to make it to the coast for sunset! And that we did 🙂

Amazing sunset in Crescent City, CA

Our plan for the rest of the trip was to drive down the coast of California stopping in San Francisco, Monterey Bay, and Los Angeles. The drive down the coast was definitely a neat experience! Neither of us really knew what we would see and that made for quite an adventure! We saw everything from redwood forests, cows grazing right next to the ocean, a little bit of the desert, and breathtaking views of the ocean!!

San Fran was the first stop on the long journey down California! We made it in time to spend the evening with Rhys’s cousin who lives in the city! The next day we got up and prepared for lots of sightseeing! We headed out to walk around the pier and Fisherman’s Wharf! Man was it cold though! We explored around the pier and checked out all of the old ships docked there and got a great view of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. We then went to the Aquarium of the Bay to see all the animals that can be found in or around the bay! Afterwards we were hungry for lunch and made a necessary stop by the Ghirardelli Factory! They have a new seasonal chocolate out called Pumpkin Spice and it is delicious!! All in all a pretty good day sightseeing followed by a perfect romantic dinner at a cute little neighborhood Italian restaurant!

View of the city from the pier

Foggy view of the bridge!

Then it was onto the next city…Monterey Bay to see the Monterey Bay Aquarium of course and a little Bubba Gump’s on the side! These two places were great and we got to even see a nice view of the Monterey Bay during our visit! This was a quick stop because it was on to find a place to stay for the night before our drive to the last city of the trip… LA!

We visited LA because Rhys and I both have a friend that goes to USC so we spent the night and morning with her before we did a little bit of sightseeing! A quick trip around Hollywood and a visit to Santa Monica beach was all we could fit in before unfortunately I had to depart from LAX eastward bound on a flight back to ATL. But I left with amazing memories from a great trip…one I wished never had to end but I had to remember what lies ahead! A new journey! One bigger than the one I was just on! One across an ocean…to a new country! I am going to Spain in only 3 DAYS!!!!!!!!

Less than a month and counting!

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It is pretty exciting to be able to say that! I have been counting down the months, now I can start counting down the weeks until I leave! I have set a tentative departure date of Monday the 17th of September. Thinking about leaving means a whole lot of things need to get done…ah! Now that I have my visa and all my paperwork ready all that’s left is packing and getting any other supplies I need.

Some other good news…I have found a place to live in Logroño! Although before you think I’m crazy, I have not agreed to anything and it is not 100% certain I will be living here! Through the university housing website for the university in Logroño I got in contact with a family. They are a young couple with a two-year old daughter. They have an open room in their apartment and were looking for a someone like myself to move in with them! As soon as I read their description on the website I immediately emailed them! For those of you that know…last summer I lived in Salamanca Spain with a family. I absolutely loved this experience and really fell in love with being apart of the Spanish everyday life. It opened my eyes to new ways of life and different aspects of family than we have in the United States. I am very excited about living with this family!  After talking with the mom a few times it seems like they are very easy-going and welcoming! I will have full use of everything in the house which is reassuring! I know some friends who stayed in home stays last summer, they had limited access to rooms or items in the house as it is just customary. I have only been in contact with them over email and will hopefully meet them on the day I arrive in Spain.

Having this set up has taken some of the pressure off of my arrival in Spain! Although I still have to meet with the family and be sure that the situation will work for me I am very excited at the possibility of it working out! Another item off my checklist recently is registering myself on http://www.tusclasesparticulares.com/. This is a website to alert anyone in Logroño looking for English lessons that I am interested in giving private lessons. Within hours of setting up my account I had 5 responses! Sadly I don’t even have my teaching schedule yet so I couldn’t confirm anything with anyone interested! Seems like I am going to be pretty busy!

I am getting very excited about leaving…it no longer seems surreal because I will be in Spain in a little over 3 weeks! I still have a few trips to take to say my goodbyes and few friends to see! Not that I am going to start thinking about saying my goodbyes but that is the reality 😦 I may or may not blog again before I leave but thanks for following me! Can’t wait for the journey to start!

A long summer…waiting for Spain!

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While I’ve been spending many of these summer days being lazy in my house enjoying the lack of things to do…I would be lying if I said it hasn’t been nice! I have been counting down the days until I am going to be leaving for Spain!! While I don’t know the exact day I will be leaving because I will be flying stand by on any day when the flights look okay I am getting very anxious about this new journey!! So many people have been asking me the same questions over and over again…”when are you leaving?” “are you excited about going to Spain?” and I am so ready to finally be able to say “I am leaving today!!”

I have begun making the packing lists…and contacting apartment owners in Spain for renting an apartment. I have gotten some good responses but won’t comment on anything because nothing is official as of now! Hoping to have a positive outcome once I arrive in Spain and meet some potential owners and see some potential flats!!

These past couple days I have been able to hang out with some good friends before they return to college or go elsewhere! It is a very strange feeling to think I am not returning to school in a few weeks. I won’t be taking classes…having loads of homework and lessons to plan…and I won’t have to deal with the dreaded Nebraska winter HA…BONUS!

No more of this 🙂

Reading multiple blogs of past auxilares has been a major help with the planning stages of getting prepared to leave and the many things to be done once I arrive in Spain. Blogging until I leave will be off and on! I have been very busy seeing last-minute friends and family and I have few trips planned! Stay tuned for info about my departure date, apartment news, and anything else new!!

Thanks for following me!

A Visit to Miami–Visa Appointment

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Well a few weeks ago I began to get a little anxious about whether or not the Miami Consulate was going to call me about making a visa appointment. In the instructions it boldly lists do not contact the visa office because they will contact you. Well I did because it was the beginning of July and I saw all these people making their appointments or going to get their visa and I wanted to get mine! So I went online and registered for an appointment for July 20th…and had to pay!

Luckily I have a grandma that lives in West Palm so I was able to fly down early and take her car to Miami. Prior to leaving I wanted to make sure I had all my documents so I checked and double checked everything!! This is so important!

Here is my checklist:

  • 2 copies of the visa application with attached passport photos (read: mug shots 😀 ) – don’t worry if you don’t understand parts of it because they will tell you what you did wrong and help you fix it.
  • Passport and a copy of the ID page
  • Drivers license and copy of drivers license-I would bring your license just in case
  • Acceptance letter from Spain-The instructions say bring a copy of this too but I only needed one copy.
  • Money order for $160
  • Original and photocopy of medical certificate from your doctor- Make sure it is on their letterhead and everything these guys are sticklers
  • Background check and photocopy-Attached apostille and copy of apostille. In the instructions it does not ask for a copy of the apostille but you do need one.
  • Background check translated into Spanish and copy of it
  • Original copy of medical certificate translated into Spanish–I used fox translators real simple
  • US Postal Service Express Mail Envelope- Make sure you write the tracking number down they will question you. I went ahead and paid for the 18.95 or whatever it was for the express overnight envelope just to be sure. Not exactly sure what they wanted

The morning of my appointment woke up early in plenty of time to get their for my appointment. Ended up being one hour early! We found a spot out front by the consulate in metered parking hoping it wouldn’t take more than an hour. When searching for the consulate address on google maps it did not recognize it at all. The consulate itself is a little hidden so we found it easily by looking for a Publix that we knew was right next store. We walked in and went up stairs to the 2nd floor. Met a guy at the front desk and he asked ‘what is your name’…and ‘when is your appointment.’ I told him my appointment was at 11:30 he said okay take this number you should only have to wait about 15 minutes. Then there was a loud beeping noise and before I had sat down it was already my turn!

Headed into this tiny enclosed room…I began to get a little nervous hoping I had everything correct! The lady first asked for my drivers license…didn’t have it. She was a little confused by that. Told her it wasn’t on the requirements, just a copy was. She reluctantly took the copy then proceeded to ask me for the rest of my documents. Once we got to the Spanish translation of the medical letter she took it and looked at it a little confused. I figured something was wrong. She told me that medical letter had to be a certified translation. I just copy and pasted the Spanish translation and signed it at the bottom. This is apparently unacceptable. I looked at the instructions on the consulate’s webpage and it does not say this is necessary but anyways it must be done she says.

Overall it went pretty well. I had to fix a few items on my visa application which I assumed would happen because I did not quite understand everything on it. Handed her my corrections, she took my passport and that was it! The office was fairly empty only two other guys in there when I walked in. The  whole appointment took about 20 minutes only because of a few hiccups! The employees at the consulate did speak both English and Spanish which was nice. They assume you speak Spanish until you talk to them. Lastly, you complete this whole process while standing at a clear window and counter with a person sitting at a desk on the other side.

Hope this info helps those of you who are traveling to Miami to get your visa! I will update on how long it took to get it in the mail. Best of luck to everyone! One step closer to arriving in España!!

** Update! Received my visa exactly two weeks after my appointment without any problems!

New Update!

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I finally heard from regional coordinator in La Rioja about my official city placement as well as the schools I will be working in.

I will be working in Santo Domingo de la Calzada, La Rioja. I google mapped it, and it looks like it is about 45 minutes from the city of Logroño. Hopefully it will be easy to set up a commute with other teachers or find a reasonable bus to commute to my schools. Although I was hoping to be in the city of Logroño, this gives me an opportunity to explore a new part of La Rioja!

La Rioja

I am assigned to three schools in the city of Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Two of these schools are secondary schools and one is primary. Not exactly what I had in mind but I’m up for the challenge! Since I am working in this small town it seems as though all the schools are pretty close to one another which will make it easy to commute once I get to Santo Domingo de la Calzada. What’s really neat is that the Camino de Santiago goes right through the city!

Housing has been another thing on mind my ever since I received my placement…as of right now I am hoping to live in Logroño! I will have to do some research for apartments in the city to decide what I think may be the best situation.