Friday, September 30, 2011

Una Visita a Mi Escuela

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:

The Commute:

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!

The School:

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!

Okay, well there is a sneak peek of what I’ll be in for this year! My first impression of the school is positive, and I’m anticipating that this will be a great year. I think the key to success with the auxiliares program is going to be going with the flow and being open minded. To all my fellow auxiliares, good luck on Monday!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Hola a todos!

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


Hola amigos!

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

Recap: Day 1

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.

Hasta Luego,


Monday, September 5, 2011

Last Week in the USA!

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

Why Spain?

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!