Thursday, October 13, 2011

Birthdays and Barcelona

Well, life got in the way again and this blog has been on the back burner lately... sorry about that! These last few weeks have been filled with work, class, battling sickness and exhaustion, and traveling. Good news is, I have lots of blog posts in the works to catch you up, so stay tuned. We´ll start with my trip to Barcelona for my birthday weekend in October...

The view from Park Guelle

Before arriving in Madrid, a few other auxiliar ladies and I planned the trip to Barcelona for Sensation White, a big house music rave. There were originally 6 of us planning to stay in a hostel together and a few other girls who were planning to meet up with us there. Of course, nothing ever goes as planned, and 3 of the 6 girls backed out at the last minute. Miss Jessica had the brilliant idea of couchsurfing for the weekend, so we cancelled our hostel reservation and within 20 minutes of posting on facebook, we found an auxiliar in Barcelona to host us... win!

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.

Port of 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!

Sensation White

Saturday, we went to Park Guelle to picnic and see some of Gaudi´s work... it's pretty amazing and has the most incredible view of the city. But the highlight of the weekend was Sensation... the event was at Palau St. Jordi (the olympic stadium) and everyone wears all white! I kind of expected a little more from the event, but it was great nonetheless. Our whole group got split up after about 20 minutes, but I stuck with my friend Christina the whole time and from what we remember we had a blast. Andddd it was my birthday!! Thanks to Christina telling everyone and their moms it was my birthday, I got a free drink or two. Luckily we all made it home safely and had a good time and even better stories to share the next morning. We ended the weekend with a glorious siesta in a park before taking the bus back to Madrid.

Siesta in the Park

All in all, Barcelona was great... I´d say it´s a must-see city for anyone visiting Spain or Europe. There are still a ton of things I didn´t see, so luckily my dear Aunt Katy and I will be going back in May! As much as I loved Barcelona, it also made me appreciate living in Madrid. The primary language in Barcelona is Catalon... while everyone speaks both Spanish and Catalon, all of the signs and menus are in Catalon. Spanish alone is challenging enough for me! Barcelona also has quite a touristy feel... we heard much more English being spoken than in Madrid.

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!

Un Beso!


Sunday, October 2, 2011


Perhaps you're in need of a little inspiration? I came across this series of short videos a few weeks back and I was blown away. These three videos are based on the concepts of movement, learning, and food, and they were made over the span of 44 days in 11 countries by filmmaker Rick Mereki.

MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

There's so much beauty in the world. I want to see it all! But for now, I'm enjoying the Madrid life. :) I think that no matter where you are in the world, you have the chance to get out and explore, learn something new, and eat a good meal.

One Month in Madrid

The expression time “flies when you’re having fun” is no joke…. apparently I’ve been living in Spain for almost a month now?! I am happy to report that I am having an amazing time in Madrid thus far. In fact, I am falling deeper in love with this city every day. Perhaps I am still in the honeymoon stage, which I’m hoping won’t pass anytime soon!

Retiro Park at sunset.

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 ca├▒as 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.