Saturday, June 14, 2014

iFeliz Cumpleaños a Mi!

Another long hiatus of writing….

         Things have been winding down at school and I’ve been preparing to move out of my apartment for the summer.  Thankfully I have people to leave my things with for two months, so I don’t have to take a whole lot back with me.  My apartment came furnished this year, but as everyone knows, stuff accumulates…I have enjoyed living in this apartment (Flat/Piso) and have great roommates! My landlord is trying to sell it over the summer, otherwise I would try and live here again next September. 

         I got to celebrate my birthday!  It is my second birthday in Spain, and only my second birthday not being with my parents…*sniff sniff* However the friends I made here made sure it was special and I was sent some beautiful flowers to remind me that I get to see my family SOON!!!!

          I went out one night with my girlfriends, and on the day of, had brunch!  Later Nate and I went on a fun cable car ride, walk, and skyped my family.  Then he took me out to a really nice Italian restaurant in Madrid, where I got the best pizza I’ve had yet.  And a cannoli :D I’m pretty reasonable when it comes to birthday expectations…

 Sunday Bruch with the roommates and Nate! 

Teleferico ride on my Birthday

The river I am always walking around...
I live in the first orange apartment complex 
on the left

The train I take to work everyday!  

The lovely Italian Restaurant I got to go to for Dinner!  

My students!

Danica, Tracy and Me at 
the Oldest Restaurant in the World!

(According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it was established in 1725)

Keep seeing cool rainbows after some crazy storms!

I had extra flour and sugar from this year and to use it up, 
I made batches and batches of cookies to give to my teachers and students!  
Double win.  

17 days, 20 hours and 46 minutes

Friday, May 23, 2014

El lluvia en España queda mas o menos en el llanura

"The rain in Spain stays mainly in the Plain" or "The rain in Spain stays more or less in the plain" The title is a bit lost in Translation...

I haven’t written in a while!  I can’t say I’ve done anything too exciting except been outside enjoying the Madrid sunshine.  Today has been a gray rainy day, so I have my cup of coffee, window open, and thought I’d do a brief catch up.

Part of my time outside has been rock climbing with Danica (friend who grew up in the same neighborhood, went to the same high school, and we had no idea until we saw each other on a street here) worked at the White Water Rafting center and is a climbing instructor.  We’ve gone around to some of Madrid’s free rock climbing walls and spent the afternoon trying to “boulder.”  She still does pretty well, I on the hand, need to step up my game.  I try!  But climbing is all about strength, and if you haven’t built up those arm muscles, you will feel it the next day.  I enjoy it though!  A little bit of much needed exercise to my life.

Another new activity I have done in the past few weeks is camping.  I had never been camping (girl scouts doesn’t count…) with my family before because most of our vacations transpired in the cozy houses of my grandparents.  In college I never went camping either, just being in Boone, North Carolina felt wilderness-y enough for me.  So I went with a few friends to the outskirts of Madrid to have my first camping experience. 
On this trip, I realized just how much like my parents I am.  This may seem like an obvious statement, naturally I am like my parents since they raised me.  However, when it came to packing, I knew what I needed to make myself comfortable and able to bear the elements.  I brought so many “just in case,” items, “emergency food,” and took charge of meals for the group because no one likes a hungry-Jamie, or a hungry-anyone for that matter.  All in all, I would do it again!  I did end up bringing too much food because the campsite was fully equipped with a grill and little food shop.  Now I know that going camping does not necessarily mean a 3 day trek into the wilderness with no connection to civilization…

The school year is winding down, and my students are starting to prepare for their cumulative exams.  Some auxiliaries are choosing to take a paycut, and leave a month early for various reasons.  Unfortunately two of my very good friends, Tracy and Danica, are doing the same thing.  So this week has been full of “last minute” Madrid things, mainly being food.  They also took me out for an early birthday celebration as they won’t be here on the actual day, but let’s face it, nobody likes you when you’re 23…

At this point in time, I have 40 days, and 44 minutes until I arrive in Charlotte to be home for the summer!!!   I can’t wait.  I have definitely been homesick recently and can’t wait to be back. 

Saturday, April 26, 2014


For Holy Week, my friends and I went to the Eternal City, Rome.  Like everyone in Western civilization, we have been taught about Roman history and its influences in our culture today.  So we took the opportunity to finally go and see the places I’d only seen as pictures in my history books.  It didn’t disappoint.  In the 3 days I was there, I got to see the Roman Forum, Palatine, Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Spanish steps, and Vatican City.  
Before getting into Rome, my friends and I memorized a few phrases in Italian to help us communicate.  The only words I knew in Italian before consisted of food, capiche, and a swear word so learning how to say “Do you speak English or Spanish?” Parle Inglese o Spangnolo was much more helpful.  Waiters and clerks would address us in Italian, we’d ask them if they spoke English, and they usually would.  They would repeat the question, and then we would accidentally answer in Spanish and the waiter would be confused.  More than once we received a raised eyebrow and a “Where are you from?”  Still can’t spit Spanish out in Spain fast enough, but go to a foreign country where you don’t know the language?  All sorts of mental confusion.

Rome was also a little overbearing as well.  Because with a list of places to see, came a list of food to eat…… quote once of my friends, “If you go to Rome and don’t gain 5 pounds, you did it wrong.”  I did manage to cross off my food goals as well.  I had ravioli, brick-oven pizza, gelato every day, and a canoli.  Canoli’s are apparently Sicilian, which I did not know…

As I look back at my travels, I’m dedicating my trip to Rome to my Grandpa Larsen.  His birthday was April 20th, he loved history as much as I did and we enjoyed talking about it.  So here’s to you Grandpa, for looking out for me and my travels.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Islas Canarias

Islas Canarias.....................
     A few weeks ago, my roommate Tracy was having the winter season blues and said “I just need some sunshine.”  It was only a matter of minutes before we decided to plan a trip to the beach, more specifically, Tenerife.  But this was more than just a girls beach trip, we decided to go to a Volcanic island, with black sand, and check out the largest active (the term active is used here loosely, active just means its has the ability to produce lava, not explode at any second) Volcano in Europe. 

     So Tracy, Danica and I went to Tenerife for three days and got to enjoy the beach, sunshine and check out Mount Teide!  We flew in Thursday night and almost immediately fell asleep at the hostel.  Woke up on Friday morning to hippy haven...more than the normal amount you usually encounter at hostels (or so I am told). 

     Friday we tried to layout in the sun, but it was too chilly in the morning with the cloud cover, so we hiked a dried lava hill instead!  Cool view, and strange red rocks, the terrain was dry and sparse and probably looked like the south west of the United States. 

     Finally the sun came out and we got to soak it in!!  However, with the glorious sunshine came the naked Germans..........fine, they want to tan everything?  We’re in Europe, it’s a cultural norm, Ill get over my American prudish ways.  Do they stay on their towels where people can choose to look away from them?  No, the 75 year old men were very much on parade walking or jogging along the coastline with no qualms whatsoever to the cold, wind, water, or innocent bystanders.  I'm still a little scarred…

     Saturday was another great day on the beach, and we met up with Danica's two friends who stayed at the hostel with us.  All 5 of us went out a dusk and found some of the Volcanic caves and watched the sunset from the lava beds.  Her friend could drive a stick shift, so we all decided to rent a car on Sunday and drive from one end of the island to the airport on the other side, to catch our flight home.

The island isn’t very big, and if you rent a car, you can drive up the Volcano!!!  It was huge, and had windy roads cutting through the small towns on the South, and North side of the island.  The south side had a dry, sparse, landscape, whereas the North side became a dense jungle of different looking trees and fruit farms.  The Canary Islands are closer to the coast of Africa than they are to Europe, which made everything about the Island unique and very different from being in a Spanish city.  A very cool trip and a great excuse to get out of the city!  

     Now that I am back at school, its been a crazy week  because we have been setting up displays of my students art work.  We have a cultural week before Easter, where the students all research a topic and create posters, or pictures about our theme, which is world events in the 1800s.  I've been using my Art Ed skills to help the students with their projects and my teachers have given me full reign with the displays!
     Lots to do before Easter, and I have my friend, Leah, coming to stay with me!  I haven’t seen her since she helped me move into my apartment here and I’m looking forward to visiting a friend from college…Hope everyone is doing well too!  Can’t wait to visit this summer!!!   

Monday, February 24, 2014

"Poco a poco"

     February is a bit of a slow month here in Madrid, just going to school, teaching my private lessons and enjoying the sunshine.  The good thing about having some down time is I’ve been able to greatly improve my Spanish skills.  This is mainly due to the help of my wonderful co-teachers, but also because of more confidence.  This sounds obvious, but after a few times of trying to speak and not being able to get your point across, it begins to make you question how you even communicate in your OWN language.

     I’ve found that I had trouble making the language switch happen quickly when caught off guard.  Again this sounds normal, but this is even when someone used to ask me questions I am familiar with!  If I was grading papers or thinking to myself and someone (my roommate, another Spanish teacher, etc.) would greet me, ask how I’m doing or what I’m up too, I would draw a blank.  Easy questions I respond to every day, but if I’m caught off guard?  It took me a good 30 seconds to process what I was hearing and spit an answer back out.    30 seconds doesn’t sound like a lot, but it is when someone is looking at you expectantly.  Everyone remembers the feeling of being called on in class by the teacher when you didn’t know the answer.   It’s like that.  But you know the answer!!!  And you’ve said it many times before!!!  It‘s frustrating and upsetting when you don’t respond quick enough, and you can’t help but feel stupid.  A few times, Spanish speaking teachers would just greet me with an accented “Hello”  because I had been slow to respond a few too many times. 

     NO MORE!  I have been working to speak in Spanish consistently with my teachers and making my Spanish roommate talk to me more.  I also have been paying much more attention when people are talking around me.  I have picked up sayings, held conversations in Spanish whenever I could, and listened to a whole presentation  on Nutrition (granted it was for a 6th grade Spanish level, but still).  I followed the lecture completely and even had an answer when the guest speaker accidentally called on me, assuming I was a spanish speaker.  Instead of zoning out when I missed a section or someone starts talking too fast, I really try to catch what they’re saying, and even ask them to stop and explain a word, instead of nodding my head, smiling, hoping they don’t ask any questions.      
Of course, constantly translating in your head can be quite exhausting and I still am very prone to zoning out.  I’ve been told over and over again that learning a new language is full of plateaus.  You escalate quickly, but then spend a period of time at the same level and feel like you aren’t increasing.  I am excited to share with you that last week was a period of escalating! 

     Things coming up, a trip to Rome for Italy, hopefully seeing my Uncle perform over in the UK and this weekend is Carnival!  Or Spain’s version of Mardi Gras…

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Oh Madrid…
I just finished up another week at school, and am amazed at how quickly the days fly by.  Now it’s February!  I have a new roommate named Tracy from Colorado who is very nice and sweet.  She went to Boulder College and has blonde, same as my cousin Georgia.  When we’re out together, her blonde hair gets us unwanted attention.  I do feel bad for people here in this program, whether they speak good Spanish or not, who stick out visually.  You are treated differently before you even open your mouth, in positive and negative ways.    Some Spaniards are extremely helpful and compassionate when you run into a language barrier.  Others quickly dismiss you and get visibly frustrated when you stumble over words.  We all know this can be the case in the United States too…something I will be more aware of when I return home. 

That being said I reallllllllllyyyy miss customer service from home.  For the most part I have totally adjusted to life here and don’t struggle day-to-day.  However, trying to get something done/completed/accomplished?  Good luck.  Maybe the economic crisis isn’t helping, but they rarely go the extra step to help you in pretty much ANY public interaction.  At restaurants, after they take your order, good luck trying to flag them down for salt, pepper, a drink refill…they come by give you the check and leave.  Just remember not to eat out if you’re ever in a hurry. 

In other news, school is still going well and I am getting closer to my students!  My favorite class is definitely Art of course, and English is my least.  I enjoy reading aloud to the class and answering vocabulary questions.  I hate dealing with grammar, the English teacher I work with takes care of grammar.  It reminds me of how frustrating it was as a kid, all the rules that there were exceptions too!  Anyways, there have been a couple of instances where I have been trying to explain to my students a vocabulary word they don’t understand.  It takes me a minute or two in order to think about how to explain what the actual definition is!  (Disclaimer:  I do not stand in the front of the class and go “Ummmm, like, I don’t know how to explain it!  We just say that” and look like a clueless young-adult.)  I was trying to explain to my students what a “Tantrum,” was when it came up in a reading, so I said “When a person freaks out.”  They continued to give me a questioning look and say, “What does ‘freak out’ mean?”  I was stumped for a few seconds thinking, “How do I explain this, To ‘freak out?’”  This isn’t the hardest word I’ve come across to explain, but slang words always throw me for a loop, because I assume they understand what I’m saying.  I paused and said, “For example, when someone throws a fit?”  Continued blank stares.  It came down to me demonstrating by stamping my feet…they enjoyed this charade.  I also tried to explain “Viral Video” when we were talking about YouTube.  Fun fact, In spanish, calling someone a “Freak” is our definition of nerdy.

                My weekends consist of hanging out with the friends that I’ve made and trying to speak Spanish with the locals.  One of the friends I’ve made is extremely outgoing and probably invites one person from every country to his parties.  I’ve met people from Holland, Australia, Scotland, England, Estonia and Greece.  The first time I met “The Greeks,” I assumed they were Spaniards and tried to listen to their conversation between each other.  They were speaking so fast and I couldn’t understand a word!  I felt upset for a minute because I thought my Spanish had improved to where I can at least understand what someone is talking about!  I was then formally introduced and they spoke in Spanish to me, I asked them how they had been able to speak Spanish so fast and well to each other.  They replied, “We weren’t speaking Spanish, we were speaking Greek.”  PHEW!  No wonder I couldn’t understand anythinggg they were saying.  We fondly call these parties a “United Nations” gathering.     

Thursday, January 16, 2014


          Here is the update about England!  Waiting in the airport by the gate was funny because everyone was speaking to me in Spanish, the air flight attendants, and the English people around.  I was flattered when the attendants still spoke to me in Spanish after I responded instead of switching to English.  After a nice nap, I met Nate in Liverpool and his Dad drove us to the train station which took us to York.  York looks like Diagon alley from Harry Potter.  That’s the best way to explain what it was like walking around, sans wizards memorabilia.  In York we went on a haunted walk, where the tour guide talked about the horrible and historical things that had happened in certain houses and streets.  The whole town was so old, but people were still using the same rooms!  Houses from the 1300, 1400 and 1500 were still standing, so was a roman wall!  People were also very friendly.  

Next we went to Whitby, which is a little fishing town on the coast.  I loved it!  It reminded me or Red Bank a little.  This is apparently THE place to get fish and chips, so that consisted of most of our meals there, thankfully that was only one night because fried fish and French fries aren’t necessarily the best combination for the waist line.  But maaaannnnnn they were delicious!  Freshly caught and served with vinegar. 

          After that we stayed at Nates parents house close to Manchester.  All of the buildings were made of stone instead of brick, but reminded me a bit of New Jersey.  His parents were very sweet and took us out for a proper English breakfast and English supper (the day after Ill talk about that in a bit).  They use the terms dinner, supper, and lunch interchangeably and “tea” can be referred to as afternoon or evening tea…where you may or may not drink tea that’s just how they refer to snack time.  Nate got me to try “pate” which was the equivalent of liver mush.  I had maybe the amount of a thumbnail and its apparently quite a delicacy…along with black pudding.  I will NOT try that and if you would like to look up what it is you are more than welcome too…

          The next day was his nephews birthday party and I’ve noticed his family isn’t big on cooking (Nate cooks the most and that usually consists of omelets or Asian cuisine.)  It was cool to see their different chips, candies, and way of celebrating.  It was very similar to any American style party, they started singing “Happy Birthday” and continued with a chorus of singing “For he’s a jolly good fellow,” and is apparently typical to extend the song.  The equivalent of our “How old are you now.”  It was interesting the differences between our English’s, there were times I didn’t understand a word!  Usually context clues can help, but these really were different words!  When I come up with some examples I’ll write them down…

          Before we left the airport I was treated to a typical Sunday lunch, which is our thanksgiving dinner.  Ohhhhhh maannnnn can you imagine my excitement?!  It was buffet style and they carved the turkey/beef/pork, onto your plate.  YUM!!!!  They thought it was crazy we only ate that once a year.  I explained that we had variations on it, but that would be their “pasta Sunday.”  The idea that we eat macaroni on Christmas baffled them. 

          It was weird being in England and seeing the rolling hills while I was on the train and in the car.  When I zoned out, it felt like I was on a car trip to New Jersey or Boone.  Which was good and bad as you might imagine.  It was nice to be surrounded by familiarity, green landscapes, a nice family, and English, but it reminded me that I wasn’t at home.  And that home is across the ocean.  In Madrid, it’s clear that I am a foreigner and am in a foreign land.  In England, I felt like I was at home, and then was quickly reminded that I am still a foreigner.  People would smile when I started to talk and immediately ask where I was from, always guessing America.  Well there's no denying it really...