Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Monday, December 12, 2011
The day before the race, we figured it might be a good idea to find out where the race actually was and how to check in. Go figure, we need to check in at an El Corte Ingles store that´s 40 minutes from my house within 2 hours, and luckily we got there just in time to pick up our size XL shirts and our race chips.
We woke up bright and early on Saturday morning and headed to Parque del Retiro for the race. Holy crap, it was COLD. The race started a few minutes late and due to poor organization there wasn´t a staggered start, so it took a while to get over the start line and the first half mile was pretty crowded. Once we got going, I had a lot of fun during the run. I didn´t push myself TOO hard because I´m so out of shape, but I kept a pace that felt somewhat challenging. My official race time was 29:10 (9:39 min/mile pace).
I miss running. It´s been a few years since I have run regularly and competed in events... I can´t really call myself a runner anymore. I started training for a half marathon last winter and I didn´t follow through because I increased my mileage too soon and was getting shin splints. Looking at my race time from a couple weeks ago, I can´t believe I was able to run a 20:30 5k at one point. Since the Ponle Freno, I have gone for a run or two, but I haven´t been able to make much time for running. There´s no way I´m waking up for cold, dark 6 am morning runs before work, and I usually don´t get home until dark and running at night here makes me a bit nervous. But hey, excuses don´t get ya anywhere, so I´ll be making an effort to fit running into my schedule. We´re planning to run in the Rock n Roll 10k this Spring, and I´d like to do some solid training for this one and improve my time. I´ll let you all know how it goes! If any of you fellow Madrid folks want to join me for a run sometime, let me know! :)
Monday, December 5, 2011
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays for two reasons: one, I love my family, and two, I love food, especially when my grandma and mom make it for me. Seeing as I´m 9 hours and thousands of miles away from home and my family, my Thanksgiving was a little different this year. Since we couldn´t be with our families, some friends and I hosted a little Thanksgiving feast to celebrate.
Well, let´s just say I have a whole new level of respect for my grandma and mom, who know how to host one hell of a Thanksgiving dinner. A few days before Thanskgiving, a couple friends decided to host a dinner at their house. What we thought was going to be a small dinner with 4 or 5 people turned into a 12 person gathering with both Spaniards and Americans. What follows is the story of how I singlehandedly almost ruined Thanksgiving....
I stupidly offered to buy the turkey... and go figure, that was a FAIL. I´m going to assume you are all aware that Thanksgiving is an American holiday and isn´t celebrated in other countries, so it shouldn´t come as a suprise that whole turkeys are a bit harder to come by. In Spain, you have to order a turkey a few days in advance from a polleria, aka a poultry store. A couple days before Thanksgiving I tried going to a couple places and none of them were able to get turkeys for me. I didn´t have the energy to go all over Madrid searching for a turkey last minute, so we settled on roasting a chicken. On Thursday I realized that we didn´t really have enough oven space to spend hours roasting the chickens and I heard that Mercadona had roasted chickens for 5 euros, so I waited until 8pm Thursday night to buy them. Of course, when I get to Mercadona I find that what I thought were going to be warm, rotisserie style chickens are actually cold, shrink-wrapped pre-cooked chickens. So I kinda started freaking out, and I called my friends to warn them that our main dish was going to be a little sketchy. Lucky for me, they were understanding... it is Spain, after all... you´ve gotta go with the flow!
So if you think that eating pre-cooked, packaged chicken for Thanksgiving is bad, you haven´t heard anything yet. Wednesday night, I realized that nobody was signed up to bring gravy. You can´t have Thanksgiving without gravy, that´s just wrong... Of course, I have no clue where to find gravy and I didn´t have time to go to an American store, so I decided I would buy it at the KFC in Sol and then put it in a bowl so nobody would know. So I go to KFC, order a thing of overpriced gravy, get a realllly strange look from the cashier, and then hurry along to my friends´place. As if showing up with KFC gravy isn´t bad enough, I open the already small container to see that it was literally only a quarter full. Hahahhaha, I die.
As you can imagine, I am a little frazzled at this point and I still need to deal with these stupid little chickens. Without thinking, I just sort of threw them from the package to the oven rack without draining the juices or lining the drip pan. What resulted was a burning smell, a kitchen full of steam, and poor Christina freaking out that I was burning the place down. We eventually got it sorted out and finished the chickens.
The good news: the kitchen didn´t burn down, we got the food on the table before midnight, and those stupid little chickens are actually really, really good. So good that nobody seemed to care that we weren´t eating turkey. In fact, all of the food was really, really good. We also had tortilla and olives (thanks to our Spanish guests!), mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green beans, sweet potatoes with pinapple and marshmellows, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and of course plenty of wine. Okay, so maybe we were missing stuffing, cranberry sauce, and legit gravy... but it still felt like a proper Thanksgiving meal!
I feel so lucky to have shared my Thanksgiving with a great group of people. It was so cool that there were two languages being spoken at the table and we were getting to share some of our culture with Spaniards. During the meal we went around the table and shared what we are thankful for. I am thankful for so much this year: family, old friends, new friends, living in Madrid, new experiences, challenges. Thanks to everyone who has been a part of it! Here are a couple pictures from our meal:
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Friday, November 18, 2011
Monday, November 7, 2011
Situations I can’t control,
The could of, would of, should of’s,
Wishing things were different,
It’s one of the hardest things to do and it’s easier said than done, but it’s time for me to get over some things I’ve been stuck on lately. Life is just too damn good to overcomplicate it with negative thoughts. It’s time to stop worrying about things that don’t exist. Sometimes I think we like making our lives messy and complicated… but I choose happiness. What are you holding onto? Let’s let go together.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
Since we procrastinated on booking a flight to Barcelona before the prices rose, we settled on taking the Alsa bus from Madrid to Barcelona. The bus is approximately 8 hours each way and only costs 53 euros round trip! We took the midnight bus on Thursday so we could sleep on the bus and have all of Friday to explore Barcelona.
On Friday, we met with a couple other auxiliar friends to explore the city. We walked through Las Ramblas and the amazing Boqueria market to shop and eat. Next, we headed to the Port of Barcelona and to the beach. The beach was gorgeous, but the weather was kind of crappy and poor Jess was picked up by some macho douchebag guy and got hit by a wave up to her waist. We also explored the Gothic area... love!
Oh, and thank you to everyone for your birthday wishes! It was weird not being with family for my birthday, but my friends in Spain helped me celebrate. We went out for a great dinner at this restaurant Segun Emma in Madrid. It was recommended by another auxiliar, and if you´re living in Madrid you should check it out!
Sunday, October 2, 2011
I keep having these moments, where it hits me that I’m actually here, and yes, this is real life, and I get overwhelmed with happiness and can’t stop smiling. This tends to happen when I’m drinking wine on the roof overlooking Plaza Mayor (thanks to my friend Jessica’s sweeeeet spot), or standing in a freaking castle in Segovia, or even just wandering aimlessly through the streets of Madrid. I can honestly say that I am happier now than I have been in a long time.
But don’t be fooled, my life isn’t THAT glamorous, haha. Living abroad does have its challenges. It can be frustrating when simple tasks become much more complicated due to language barriers or cultural differences…. ie: apartment hunting, grocery shopping, opening a bank account, making friends with locals. It’s not uncommon that I get lost and then can’t understand people’s directions when I ask for them, or that I go the wrong way on the metro and don’t notice until like 3 stops later (seriously Lindsay?? It’s color-coded and there are signs everywhere haha). And I’m not on an unlimited budget here… I do have to be conscious of my spending, no matter how tempting H&M and Zara and drinking cañas on a patio are. However, I’m grateful for these challenges and they are part of what is making this experience so amazing and worthwhile.
I feel somewhat guilty about all the time I wasted in the months leading up to my move to Spain. While I was keeping busy with a full time job and somewhat of a social life, I spent the majority of my time daydreaming about Spain and praying for time to hurry up. I am making it a personal goal to never be in one place wishing that I was somewhere else. Now that I’m finally here, I’m actually living in the present, and I wish I would have just done that over the past year. But hey, easier said than done!
One thing that has helped me immensely as I adjust to my new life here are the friends I have been making. I connected with a small handful of other auxiliars via the auxiliar group on Facebook in the months leading up to the move. In fact, I am going to Barcelona this weekend with a group of girls, a trip that we organized online. Anyways, I lucked out on meeting some cool people early on. Another bonus is that my friend Jessica who I played ultimate with at Chico is also doing the program in Madrid, so it’s been fun getting to explore Madrid with her! As much as I’d like to make Spanish friends, it’s definitely easier to make friends with Americans and other expats here. I’m trying to avoid networking TOO much with other auxiliares because I do want to make more effort speaking Spanish and meeting Spaniards.
Jess and I at Palacio Real yesterday.
I do, however, have one Spanish friend/intercambio, Guillermo. We actually met through a language exchange site months ago and stayed in regular contact. Despite warnings from my dad about meeting random strangers from the internet, I met with Guille in person on my first day in Madrid. My friend Jamie came along, and they did most of the talking, considering I could barely get out a sentence in Spanish! Since then, we have met for a few intercambios, or language exchanges… according to Guillermo, my Spanish is improving. Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s saying much…
A few days ago I started getting quite frustrated at myself because to be honest, I haven’t been putting enough effort into improving my Spanish. People keep telling me, “Oh, you’ll learn, you’ll pick it up easily.” Yeah… no. In reality, learning a new language involves pushing out of your comfort zone and putting a lot of time into it. I started getting a bit insecure about speaking Spanish because my level is a lot lower than most of my friends here, I suck at pronouncing things, and my vocabulary is worse than a 2 year olds. And then I remembered one of my main objectives for coming here: to learn Spanish. My friend Tom was kind of giving me a hard time for never speaking in Spanish, even when the opportunity is there, and I finally got fed up with myself. So I got my booty up and signed up for a 12 week Spanish course for 3 hours a week and I’m in the process of setting up intercambios with a few Spanish girls. I’ve got a lot of work to do, but I finally feel like I’m headed in the right direction.
Well, I realize that I have now written a novel, and if you’re still actually reading this you’re probably ready to stop. I felt the need to do a little reflecting on this experience so far and keep everyone up to date. By the way, it’s definitely not my intention to brag or gloat about how happy I am and all of those annoying things…. I am just so grateful for this opportunity and that I am actually following through with this. While in all honestly I haven’t reached the homesickness stage yet (and it’s not even in sight), I do miss all of you from home and think of you often (especially my family and besties). I’ll do my best to stay in touch, especially through this blog, but I’m also going to start making a conscious effort to limit my Facebook time and not keep toooo much contact with home. Okay, that’s all for today, folks! I hope everyone has a beautiful day, whether you’re roaming the streets of Madrid or back in the States.
Friday, September 30, 2011
Well, my little vacay is coming to an end… I begin working at my school on Monday! This morning, I went to my school for the first time with my two fellow auxiliares. My school is located in Villaviciosa de Odon, a mid-sized town located southwest of Madrid. I must say, I’m getting excited for this upcoming year! Here’s a recap of today’s visit:
It’s looking like my commute to school will take around 45 minutes to and hour each way… I’ll have to time it this week. To get to school, I take metro from my area, La Latina, to the Principe Pio station, which takes 15 minutes, mas o menos. From Principe Pio, I take a bus directly to Villaviciosa de Odon, which is maybe 25 minutes or so. My school is a 5-10 minute walk from the bus stop. It’s a good thing we had a practice round today, because we missed our bus stop on the way there and boarded the wrong bus on the way back… oops! Luckily the bus driver was nice and helped us get to the right stop. ANYWAYS…..
The walk to school... very scenic, I know!
I am placed at Colegio Laura Garcia Noblejas y Brunet. (Yes, it is a mouthful. I still get tongue-tied trying to say it.) For those of you who don’t know, a colegio is the Spanish equivalent of an elementary school. I will be working with kids in grades 1-4. When we arrived at the school, we were greeted by some of the administration and English teachers. They were super welcoming and we exchanged besos and hellos with everyone. We also conveniently arrived during the morning break, so all the teachers were hanging in the lounge and there was free coffee and tea, breaded and fried salmon, cake, melon, and all sorts of delicious things… win!
Surprise, surprise: our school isn’t exactly prepared for our arrival and hasn’t made our schedules yet. My coordinator is really sweet though, and they seem to be pretty accommodating. She basically said to just show up at 10 on Monday morning and we’ll go from there. My school begins class at 9 a.m., has a break from 11-11:30 or something like that, and then teachers have an hour of prep from 12:30-1:30 and lunch from 1:30 to 2:30. Then the school resumes for class from 2:30 to 4. Since there is a 2 hour lunch break in the middle of the day and we need to fulfill our 16 hours in the classroom each week, I will most likely have to be there from 9 to 4 a few days a week. Kind of lame, but it will be a good opportunity to bond with the teachers and maybe practice some Spanish!
The Scoop on School Lunch:
We were also given the school lunch menu for October. Um, let me just say that Spain has us Americans beat in the school lunch department. The food is actually cooked on site, is unpackaged and is served to the students at their seats. And the menus sound BOMB. For example, the lunch on Wednesday, October 5 is Macarrones con salsa de tomate y chorizo (Macaroni with tomato sauce and chorizo), Filete de merluza a la romana con rodaja de tomate natural (buttered hake fillet with sliced tomato), fruta fresca, leche, agua y pan (fresh fruit, milk, water, and bread). Teachers are charged 4.65 euros to eat the school lunch, but we were told that we may potentially get a 50% discount. The lunches are prepared through a 3rd party company, Secoe, so the school has to work out an agreement with them. Apparently because of “the crisis” (a post on this to come...) many companies are losing money and therefore tightening their budgets. Fingers are crossed we get cheap lunches!
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Well, here I am again, apologizing for taking so long to post. I came down with a little flu last week and spent a couple days in bed, but I am fully recovered and back to enjoying Madrid again.
I took my first trip outside of Madrid last week! I’m not even close to being bored with this city, but I want to take every opportunity I can to explore more of Spain. My friend Tom and I decided to take a spontaneous day trip to Segovia, a small town about an hour and a half north of Madrid. We bought bus tickets through La Sepulvadena for 13E on Monday afternoon and journeyed to Segovia on Tuesday!
The bus ride from Madrid to Segovia was painless. First stop, the aqueduct! This thing is pretty incredible…
Next, we headed to the big Cathedral, one of the three main attractions of Segovia. It’s a beautiful building, but we decided to skip the 3E fee to tour the cathedral because hey, we can buy 2 cañas for that (don’t judge me)! On that note, we stopped inside the next cerveceria we saw for a couple beers and tapas.
After refueling, we walked all over the city until arriving at Alcazar, the famous castle in Segovia. Entrance into the castle is 4.50E and is totally worth it, in my opinion. The castle is basically a museum with lots of fancy things like cannons and armor and it has some amazing views. It was crazy to think of what life would have been like when this castle was built.
Our last goal of our trip was to try Segovia’s signature dish, Cochinillo, or roast suckling pig. Of course we decide to eat during siesta, when practically every restaurant is closed! We finally found a restaurant that was open and ordered a menu del dia with Cochinillo and another once with chicken. I’m not gonna lie, we were a little nervous to try it…. Cochinillo is very tender on the inside and crunchy on the outside- like pork rinds meets peanut brittle. So it wasn’t my favorite thing I’ve eaten in Spain, but it wasn’t too bad. All in all, the food and wine were great!
After our meal, we headed to a little park for a quick siesta before hopping on the 8pm bus back to Madrid. It was fun to have a little getaway outside of Madrid, and day trips are an inexpensive way to do so. If you ever get the chance to visit Segovia, I would highly recommend it!
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
I apologize for my lack of blog posts since arriving in Madrid. Like I mentioned before, the internet in my hostel doesn´t work on my computer, so I have been using my hostel´s computer lab to get online. This last week has been filled with searching for a piso, wining and dining, and walking the streets of Madrid!
I´ve made friends with a woman at my hostel, Victoria, who is great. We have been exploring Madrid and finding amazing little bars and restaurants. One of my favorites is this little to-go place right by Palacio Real... we get huge portions of food for cheap and take it to the park to eat. I have also met up with a few other auxiliares for drinks, and so far everyone I´ve met has been really cool.
The piso hunt has definitely been the more stressful and less glamorous portion of my week. Each morning I wait for my turn on the computers at my hostel, scour sites like Idealista and Loquo for apartment listings, and make a list of numbers to call. Then, I make some calls, in Spanish, to make appointments to view the pisos. Communicating over the phone in Spanish is not easy for me, but I can usually understand enough to make an appointment time and get the address. I´ve seen a few apartments in the past week, but nothing had really worked out until today! On Sunday, I am moving to a cute little apartment in La Latina with another auxilar who has been here for 2 years already. We get along really well and I think it´s going to be a great year! Now that I have my housing situation figured out, I feel like I can finally start settling in here!
So... what´s next?! Tonight I am planning to go to an ultimate frisbee practice with a local team here, Los Quijotes/Dulcineas. I´m excited to play some frisbee and meet some Spaniards, and hopefully practice my Spanish! I will also be looking into taking some Spanish classes here. I also want to find a few intercambios, or language exchange partners. The language barrier is definitely one of the biggest challenges for me right now. I feel so behind all of my friends here, and I really want to start improving my speaking. I´m trying not to be too hard on myself though, I know I can´t learn it all in a week!
I wish I could include pictures, but I can´t upload them to the hostel computer. I will upload pictures to my flickr account and blog as soon as possible so you can see Madrid through my eyes. To everyone at home, I love and miss you!
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Hey everyone! I’m here safe in Madrid! I've been having some difficulties connecting to the Internet in my hostel, so I apologize for my lack of posts so far. I promise more are on the way! Here is a recap of my first day in the city:
The flight to Madrid was pretty painless. My flight left Sacramento at 7:20 am and I only had a short layover in Washington D.C. I flew on Aer Lingus from D.C. to Madrid, and the plane wasn’t full so I had a whole row to myself. I was hoping to get some sleep on the flight, but my mind was racing and I couldn’t relax enough to sleep. Alas, I arrived in Madrid at 7:30 in the morning (Madrid time).
I was picked up from the airport by another auxiliar at my school and her boyfriend’s dad. He took us to el Parque de Retiro, which is a huge park in the center of Madrid. Retiro is beautiful and muy tranquilo. We walked through some of the gardens for a little while and watched the peacocks and birds.
We then headed to Puerta del Sol to kill time before I could check into my hostel. We spent hours walking through the Sol area and Plaza Mayor. My feet were throbbing, so we stopped in a little bar for a drink. I ordered a caña (small beer), which I didn’t realize came with a small plate of paella, and a grilled ham and cheese sandwich…. all under 5 euros!
Once I was checked into my hostel, I met a guy in the lobby who invited me to join him for lunch. We went to this little restaurant he found to try the “menu del dia”. For 10 euros, he got a caña, basket of bread, a large plate of paella with chicken and seafood, a plate of fish in red sauce and French fries, and a dessert of fresh melon. I wasn’t very hungry so I only ordered water, but he shared some of his food with me and it was amazing! He claims it was possibly the best meal he’s had in his 2 months of traveling.
After lunch, I met with another auxiliar friend. We went to 100 Monaditos, which sells large mugs of beer and little bocadillos for 1 euro each on Wednesdays! Next, we took metro to el campo de naciones to meet with my Spanish intercambio I have been emailing with the last few months. My friend speaks much better Spanish, so they did most of the talking, but I spoke when I could and I could understand some of the conversation and learned quite a bit! I have a lot of work to do if I want to become fluent in Spanish!
Needless to say, I was exhausted. I finally arrived back at the hostel around 9 and fell into the deepest sleep of my life. Madrid is a beautiful city and I’m really enjoying myself so far! I can’t wait to get over this jet lag so I have more energy to enjoy it and search for a place to live.
Monday, September 5, 2011
This last week has been full of saying goodbyes and preparing for the big move. Here’s a recap of what I’ve been up to!
Last weekend = Last weekend in Chico
Sylvs and I at the Bear
I’m not going to lie, leaving Chico is definitely bittersweet for me. Chico has been my home for the past 5 years, and I love that town so much. Last weekend I got a visit from my favorite roommate ever, Sylvia, who is now back at UPenn. We had lots of fun eating at our favorite places, aka La Cocina Economica and In-n-Out, and going to the bars with friends. I spent my last night in Chico at the Discos Calientes ultimate tournament party at Sierra Nevada and at the epic after party. Too much fun.
Last hoorah with my Ultimate ladies!
On Sunday, I had to say a couple tough goodbyes. It was sad, I cried, and then my mom came and picked me up and took me back to Elk Grove for my last week at home.
My main focus this week has been loading up on my favorite foods. Yes, I love food. We’ve had sushi, Vietnamese, Taco Bell, burgers, hot links, and all-American BBQ. Heaven.
Bomb food from Sierra Nevada.
Friday night I hung with my parents and their awesome friends at Valley Hi. These people know how to have a good time. I could barely hang, haha.
Hanging with the parents.
I spent last night hanging out with my BFF Danielle and her fiancé, Paul. We went to Tapa the World in Sacramento…. Muy delicioso! If you’re in the Sacramento area, I highly recommend it. After, we headed to our favorite Irish pub, de Vere's, for drinks and board games! Today we went kayaking at the Sac State Aquatic Center… so much fun!
Paul, Danielle, and I at de Vere's. Good times.
I’m spending the next day hanging with my family and doing last minute packing, and of course, eating lots of ribs and yummy food.
If you were moving to a foreign country, what would be your ideal last meal at home? Leave me comments :)
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Hi everyone! I apologize for the lack of blog posts thus far… from this point forward, I promise to post more regularly. For those of you who don’t know, I depart for Madrid on Tuesday morning! I can’t believe I am FINALLY leaving after over a year of waiting. It feels surreal… I’m not quite sure it has hit me yet that I will be gone for almost a year. I’m somewhat nervous, mostly due to the language barrier, but I’m so excited and I have a good feeling about my new life in Madrid.
In case you didn’t already know, I am moving to Madrid to work as an Auxiliar de Conversacion, also known as a North American Language and Culture Assistant. The program is run by the Spanish Ministry of Education, and there are over 2,500 auxilares throughout Spain (around 1500 of us are placed in Madrid). Basically, I will be assisting Spanish teachers with teaching various subjects in English.
I am placed at Colegio Laura Garcia Noblejas y Brunet in the small suburb of Villaviciosa de Odon in Madrid. My plan is to live in the city center and commute to work. Good news is, I’m trading my 40-hour weeks for 16-hour work weeks with 3 day weekends, meaning I will have plenty of time to travel and explore Madrid. I’m also planning to teach private lessons, clases particulares, to supplement my stipend.
Google street view of C.E.I.P. Laura Garica Noblejas
The number one question people ask when they hear I am going to Spain is, “so you do speak Spanish, right?” The truth: ummm no. I took a few years in high school and a semester in college, but it never really stuck. I think I put more effort into passing notes with my friends than conjugating verbs, oops! I do remember some Spanish, but I have a difficult time using it in conversation. One of my main goals for the year is to learn Spanish and become comfortable speaking!
I’m planning to spend the rest of my free time enjoying Spanish cuisine, playing on an ultimate Frisbee team, making new friends, taking siestas, and exploring Madrid and beyond!
So for all my bilingual readers out there, any advice for learning a new language? Leave it in the comments!
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
As you probably know if you’re visiting my blog, I am one month away from departing on the biggest adventure of my life thus far. That’s right, I’m packing my bags and moving to Madrid to work as a language and culture assistant for the next year! Stay tuned for more posts and updates in the near future. I’m hoping that through this blog I can keep in touch with friends and family, as well as provide insight and inspiration to any aspiring auxiliares and world travelers!