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Still Thankful, Now for New Reasons

With Thanksgiving just one day away, most Americans start the annual discussion of why they are thankful.... and social media becomes flooded with posts telling the world (or at least people's followers) details of gratitude. (Not a critique against those who choose to share publicly, just a comment that I believe most social media participants could agree on.) When people are asked, "Why are you thankful this Thanksgiving?" most people respond with some variation of "family, friends, and a roof over my head" (or at least I'm assuming those are some of the most common answers). And I, too, am grateful for those things today, and every other day, but the why behind feeling this way has taken on a different meaning since moving across the Atlantic this year.

 

1. FRIENDS

This one is intentionally placed at the top of the list. Moving to any new place can provoke feelings of anxiety and isolation; moving to a new, foreign city, where I understand, but am not cultured to, the customs and am significantly less proficient at the language than I would like to admit, can be a potentially panic-ridden disaster. But that could not be farther from my (three month and counting) experience. While there are many factors that have made my transition from Nashville, Tennessee (with a summer stint in my small New Jersey hometown) to Madrid, Spain smooth, the friendships that I have developed have made the biggest impact. Probably a combination of being Americans (don't worry, I'm working on forging international friendships) and just being who they are, my new friends have filled any potential holes I would have felt from leaving behind my family and friends in the U.S. (Side note: don't worry, none of you back home are being replaced) I have yet to experience feelings of loneliness or homesickness, and I credit a huge part of that to my new friendships. I truly believe that any experience, good or bad, can be positively or negatively impacted by who surrounds you. I thought there was no way lightning could strike twice (the first being the lifelong friendships I made while studying abroad), yet I feel equally supported here in Madrid for my second time around.

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Florence, Italy in late September

2. FAMILY

Of course, I am grateful for my entire family. In particular, though, I feel immense gratitude for three of them this year. I've always felt slightly cooler because I could say I had family members who lived overseas, as if that somehow made me more cultured, but I never anticipated needing their expertise for real life situations. Whether it be housing difficulties (check out the third point in this post), international safety concerns, or general "living in a foreign country advice," two of my uncles and one aunt have guided me through adult-ing abroad. Prior to moving to Madrid, I hadn't anticipated needing their wisdom; now, I know how blessed I am to have family that can help me through this specific phase of my life.

3. A ROOF OVER MY HEAD

The "finding a place to live" situation over here is cutthroat. In August and September, thousands (I don't think I'm exaggerating that number) of young, foreign adults bombarded Madrid. Whether they traveled here through Erasmus, study abroad, or to work as an auxiliar, finding a reasonably priced, decently nice, and relatively safe, in a neighborhood nearish the center, apartment was a nightmare for anyone during that time period. After not finding anything I would deem livable (that makes me sound like a diva, but trust me, I wasn't... I looked at one apartment that didn't even have a kitchen) or affordable, I opted to live with a Spanish family through a language exchange program. I'm not going to go into detail, but the process took about a month to be placed, and when I finally moved into their home, I only ended up living with them for a week. That entire housing ordeal made me seriously question my stay in Spain, despite wanting desperately to remain here. Luckily, I happened upon a newly redone apartment, which is where I now reside. While the apartment is far from perfect (yes, it's redone, but not with high-quality materials), it is comfortable, in a neighborhood which I appreciate, and filled with respectful roommates. 

I could list off so many more things and reasons why I'm grateful, but I wanted to share how my perspective differs this Thanksgiving from years prior.

 

Happy Turkey Day!

What Routine?

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What Routine?

I despise routine. I think it’s boring, predictable, and if you’re following one everyday, then you must be living a boring life.

Okay, so that’s a quote from my younger self…

After moving to a foreign country, working and working out travel plans, I find myself craving a routine. I’m craving the protection and security that a routine can provide.

Where am I traveling for the long weekend? What am I doing tonight? What am I eating for dinner? These simple questions are a breeze and easy to answer but from time to time, they lead me into more difficult topics.

What am I doing with my life? Where will I settle down? What big girl job will I have as a career? Do I want a big girl job?

These questions deter me from my beautiful present life here in Madrid, Spain! So I’m going to break down my day.

Here’s my typical workday at a primary/elementary school in Spain:

  • I wake up, like most people do and I get ready for work.
  • I arrive at my job before 9a.m.
  • I have three classes
  • I have a coffee break
  • I have another class
  • I have an hour break
  • I have another hour for lunch
  • I have two more classes

I work Monday-Thursday and two out of those four days, I teach private English lessons after school.

After classes I might go for a jog around Retiro Park, get a coffee with a friend, explore a new area of the city, or sometimes I go salsa dancing.

It changes day-to-day, night-to-night, and weekend-to-weekend. Balance is a moment-to-moment challenge no matter where your “habitat” might reside.

I think it’s natural to crave a familiar routine to recharge, especially in a thriving capital city. I’m not sure when a new place stops being new but I enjoy the time I spend in figuring it out.

Moving to Spain for 1+ Years?! What to Pack ‘n' Consider…

I was initially instructed to pack based on the “Rule of 3’s” i.e. 3 shirts, 3 pairs of shoes, 3 pants, 3 dresses, etc. and I am VERY glad I didn’t. I was moving abroad for a year and although it is a relatively short chapter in my life history book; it is still a move! Because of this, I had to plan based on what I use in any given day, week, or month back home.

Also, if you are doing the CIEE program or any organized teaching placement program you will have the ease of someone picking you up from the airport. If not, simply pay the $30 cab fare to pack all things necessary. In the end, it will be much cheaper to cab then replace all the things you didn’t bring and then throw them away, donate, or try to ship them back home. Other things I heard before moving here is that it’s fine to pack light because there is cheap shopping. Okayyyy, it might be cheap relative to back home but when you don’t have an income as a teacher for 1-2 months after arriving then the last thing you should be doing is going shopping. Not to mention that the clothes are as advertised… cheap in price AND quality.

I have compiled a list of all the things I brought for perspective along with additional suggestions for items to consider bringing. I hope my full list can provide a little more clarity than the guidance I was provided.

Clothes:

  • 14 pairs of socks if you are someone that works out regularly otherwise 10 could suffice.
  • 10 underwear and 7-10 bras in case you aren’t doing laundry on a strict routine or have longer vacations. You will sweat A LOT the first couple months in Spain so re-wearing bras is not feasible.
  • 5 camisoles to wear under cardigans and undershirts
  • 7 cardigans or nice shirts
  • 4 t-shirts and 5 long sleeved shirts
  • 2-3 sweaters
  • 3 pairs of slacks
  • 4 jeggings/jeans
  • 2-3 pairs of leggings – If you have fleece lined ones then bring them for winter time
  • 6 nicer dresses for work, going out, b-day celebrations, etc.
  • 2 maxi dresses
  • A pack of Nylons – Working professional women wear nylons in Spain. In the US, technically you should be too but we have become more lax over time.
  • 3-5 scarves – I brought 12 and accumulated 3 more in Morocco but I’m obsessed.
  • 7 workout outfits (leggings/shorts, sports bras, and shirts – this will vary depending on your typical workout regimens).
  • 3 zippy jackets for working out and/or keeping warm at night. I brought one fleece Columbia and two Polyester jackets.
  • 3 pairs of flats – You will be walking a lot! Comfy shoes that support your back are advised.
  • 1 pair of flip flops– Gotta love hostel showers.
  • 1-2 pairs of tennis shoes – I brought 1 pair of running shoes and my Reebok Nanos for lifting.
  • 1 winter jacket and 1-2 other jackets – I brought 3 peacoats and 2 fake leather jackets to dress up my outfits. I probably didn’t neeeed all 3 peacoats but they are all different colors, I didn’t want to make a decision on which to leave behind, and I wear them all happily. #smalljoys
  • Jewelry – A couple of your favorite pieces are advised but bare in mind that anything too flashy will likely make you more of a target for pickpocketing.
  • Sunglasses 

Toiletries, where Costco/Sam’s Club becomes your BFF (if not already), and other necessities:

  • Toothpaste – 3 large tubes and 1, 100 ml travel size
  • Tampons – 2 boxes
  • Orbit Gum– 3 boxes emptied throughout my suitcase– I’m an addict, I’ll admit. I’m also particular about having the Green or Dark Blue Orbit. Gum in Spain is the Sugar coated hard shelled ones and more expensive. No Bueno.
  • Toothbrushes – 4
  • Floss
  • Favorite cover-up, foundation, eyeliner and/or mascara – Bring 2-3 depending on your use habits
  • Razor – 3 packs of 4 shaving blades
  • Brush/ratting comb (if applicable)
  • Perfume – Bring 2 if 3 oz bottles
  • Moisturizer – 1
  • Face cleaner – 3
  • Soap bars – 3 to get started
  • Shampoo/Conditioner– one bottle each to get you started
  • Deodorant – 4. You know what works for you and you likely won’t find it in Spain.
  • Q-tips- 2-3 handfuls in a sandwich bag shall suffice
  • 10-15 Cotton balls and nail polish remover
  • 2 nail polish colors
  • Nail kit – tweezers, clippers, cuticle cutters, nail file, etc.
  • Teeth cleaning kit- I’m a freak and I like cleaning my teeth at the dentist regularly so I picked up one of these from Amazon for $10 and it’s a gem.
  • Mini sew kit – Little snags and holes can be easily salvaged.
  • Lent roller
  • Medicine – Advil, multivitamin, Omega 3s, etc. that are a part of your typical regimen.
  • Thermometer – Do you realllly have to go to the doctor?
  • Sunblock
  • External hard drive – You will want it. People often lose/get phones stolen or computers croak so backing up your pictures will be necessary.
  • Ziplocs – 1 box of them with zippers to pack your lunch or you can buy non-zipper ones here. I use Ziplocs to keep toiletries dry on trips. Travel ain’t always glamorous.
  • Converter– so you can charge your electronics.
  • Various sized padlocks – 2-3 for those hostel stays, gym locker, luggage locking, and to help a friend if they forget theirs : D

Additional things I brought to assist with the transition. This will depend on who you are and what brings you joy so this category is at your own discretion.

  • I got two coffee mugs for Christmas in 2014, one is molded like a peacock the neck being the handle and the other is an elephant with a trunk for the handle; two of my favorite animals! These remind me of loved ones back home and hold a lot of coffee for my relaxing Saturday mornings.
  • Adult coloring book and gel pens – If you’re into that kind of thing.
  • Protein Powder and Ziploc bags (as noted above)/shaker (I don’t like the latter because it leaks, it’s too bulky, and I don’t care to invest in the compartmentalized one). Ziplocs carry my dry powder until I add water later, cut the corner, and drink up.
  • Special seasonings. In my case, a big mama jama thing of lemon pepper. Some things are more challenging to find (i.e. hot sauce for you spicy lovers) or don’t exist here so if you like it enough, bring it. You’ll be okay without your excess of American goods though too, I promise!
  • 3 pairs of plastic chopsticks – my trusty travel companions. I take them wherever I go because I can eat everything I want with them and their easy to sneak into luggage.
  • Pack of Thank you cards – whether in the professional world or not, handwritten cards are thoughtful!
  • Big backpack for those flights with Ryanair- I hucked my purple turtle shell through the Sahara for 7 days and use it regularly to bring my workout clothes into town so that I can pit stop at the gym after school and before heading home. I’m allll about that efficient life.
  • A smaller drawstring bag or satchel – Great for carrying around your goods on lighter days. I also pack my drawstring bag in my medium sized backpack on trips so I can use it to carry the necessities throughout the day i.e. camera, map, notebook, pens, wallet, phone, etc. because I don’t have a large purse or a purse in general for that matter.
  • Fancy camera (if applicable) – Make room to fit it in your luggage, you won’t regret it.
  • iPod – Does anyone even use these much anymore? I do for long trips to preserve my phone battery.
  • Backpacking packs (if you have one) – Largest of the ones you can take on the plane and necessary for those 7+ vacation days or winter travels where clothes needed are thicker. Here’s my backpack that’s lasted 3+ years of excessive travel.
  • 3-5 pairs of headphones – Ridiculous I know but one ear bud goes out, get lost or left behind at hostels unintentionally. If you already have them at your house then bring them. Also, pick up the free ones from flights and trains when possible. Speaking of keeping things for free, I always klepto the fleece blanket from int’l flights to use for picnics or a beach adventure since it’s light weight and I can throw it away if it gets filthy.
  • Spotify Premium – Lifesaver abroad for anyone that LOVES music and isn’t willing to pay an arm and a leg for data. The best $11 I spend a month goes to Spotify since I’m pretty much listening to it anytime I’m not teaching or meeting with people face to face.
  • Kindle app. access– I used to be a short article reader but now that I metro everywhere I have lovely books downloaded to my phone (thanks Nikole, my beloved sister, for the Membership and great selection : P) to pass the time.
  • Journal – I have a 5 year Journal that Nikole, genius she is, gave me 4 years ago. This is my trusty travel companion to record life happenings of every single day in the year. It’s fun to recollect on what I’ve done or thought about in the past. For example, October 25th, 2013 I made a 2 year goal to teach or move abroad to Europe, Thailand, or Myanmar. Well I’m here under 3 years so woo for following through on a goal anddd being able to see what I was thinking 4 years ago!
  • 2 Notebooks – I presume you’re moving abroad partially because you want to learn the language of the country? If so, you’ll be taking diligent notes. If not, notebooks are easy travel companions to take on long flights and trains to jot ideas, make plans, write poems, journal entries, letters, etc. The best thinking time I have is when I’m plopped down in a train or flight seat so a notebook always comes in clutch.
  • Phone charging brick – You never know how long you’ll be sucked into the city for and in a new place the last thing you want is no access to resources in your phone. Thank you Dad for always gifting me things I always needed but never knew about!
  • 5-7 Pens – I’m sure you have them laying around your house. Bring them.
  • Cards – I love games so I brought 2 decks of cards, Loaded Questions, and Bananagrams. They have contributed to some of my favorite rainy day memories while back home or traveling.
  • Bible, Spanish Dictionary, and Lonely Planet Book – I brought these because sometimes I like tangible things to read and scheme trips. Definitely not necessary with the advent of the worldwide web and applications but it’s part of my wind down on long days or leisurely Saturday mornings.
  • 6 copies of everything – Passport, NIE, School Placement e-mail, passport photo, etc.
  • Deflated balls and ball pump – I brought a football and volleyball since I already had them at my house and didn’t want to pay to play in the park with friends. Pumps are about $5 from your local wal-mart if you don’t have one already.
  • Yoga mat – It serves two purposes. Allows me to participate in the obvious, yogi time but secondly, serves as a floor mat/rug next to my bed since all apts. I have seen here are hard wood or tile and gets real cold!
  • Reusable water bottle – Double check that you can even drink the city’s tap water. For Madrid you are good to go! Plastic waterbottles are cheap here i.e. 30 cents for 1.5L at the grocery store but that’s a lot of trash for the landfill…
  • Phone plan – Purchase once you get here. Many people did Orange or Vodafone for 20 euros for 2GB/month. I have 2 GB for 10 euro/month with Lycamobile and have only positive things to say about them!

Potential additional items if they fit otherwise purchase when you get abroad if necessary:

  • Heels/wedges- 1-2 pair
  • Boots – 1-2 pairs for cold mornings and travels to cold lands in the winter
  • A book or two – These things take up quite a bit of space so I advise limiting the quantity brought
  • Gloves – 1-2 pair
  • Thick/Long socks – 1-2 pairs
  • Earmuffs/Beanie
  • Umbrella
  • 1 Rain Jacket AKA the ones that roll into themselves, nothing fancy needed. OR I guess you could always do the good ol’ fashioned trash bag but I don’t think they have big ones here in Spain so you might have to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag).
  • Wine Opener – You’re moving to Spain after all : D

I hope this helps provide more clarity as you scheme for travels abroad! Exciting adventures await! : D

P.S. If you’re wondering how I brought all these things without exceeding the weight limits it’s through weighing my luggage before going to the airport. Aside from that, I used my drawstring bag to carry my precious laptop, iPod, headphones, notebook, pens, journal, necessary travel information and passport in a folder, phone and laptop charging cord, wallet, gum, etc. that needed to be easily accessed for the immediate international flight. My Backpackers pack was filled with my yoga mat, fancy camera and point and shoot camera, all other technology cords, and clothes. My two suitcases were filled with everything else and my purple backpack rested emptied in one of them.

Thanksgiving Part 2: After School Special

Given the state of ham in Spain as the most loved, most eaten food, a few friends and I decided to forgo meat (turkey) in favor of pizza and pumpkin bread for our Friendsgiving extravaganza. If anything feels like home, it’s eating Domino’s pizza with friends at midnight.

If anyone has any suggestions for my food baby, I’m taking names.

Now on to Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life and planning my trip to Lolina Vintage Café, which is celebrating the revival by converting its store into Luke’s Diner for a week :)

Look at the pictures on their Facebook: Lolina Vintage Café

 

Thanksgiving Part 1: School

If there is any holiday that tests an American’s endurance for living abroad, it is Thanksgiving.

For one, having to work on Thanksgiving like it’s an ordinary day is just not very fun. Plus, social media is a no-go unless you want to be bombarded with cute photos of people at home eating delicious food, playing with their pets, and just generally not doing anything. Most importantly—

Only the U.S. gets a Snapchat turkey filter on Thanksgiving. Spain does not get the turkey filter.

I love the turkey filter; it is so sad not to have the turkey filter.

To be fair, there are a couple perks to working on Thanksgiving, such as getting to explain the holiday to your students and hearing them become excited to learn about you and your life. If there is anything that can make you feel better about yourself than third graders showering your family pictures with compliments, I don’t even want to know what it is. I am the luckiest teacher in the world ♥

One of the pictures that my kids loved:

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When I was the same age as my students!

 

IZZY: Tinder While You Travel (and 9 other jetsetter tips)

You may have noticed I have been conspicuously absent on the CIEE Teach in Spain Blog lately. That's what happens when you spend every weekend in November traveling both within Spain and internationally and refuse to spend any valuable time on your computer. One thing that I am constantly thankful for is the ability to travel while working with CIEE. The auxiliar schedule is such that you always have three free days during the week (Saturday and Sunday, plus a bonus day--Monday for me). Being in Spain also means that there are a lot of great locations within an arms reach that are financially accessible on the 1.000EUR auxiliar stipend. I've visited Toledo, Paris, Vienna, and next up is Copenhagen. I'm going to put a spotlight on these cities in the upcoming weeks but before talking about the destinations, let's talk about getting there. Here are my top 10 travel tips for any jetsetter:

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  1. Update your arsenal of must-have apps. I use Hopper for any trips whose location and date I already know. For example, I scored non-stop roundtrip tickets between Madrid and New York City for my younger sister's college graduation in May for under $400--total steal! I use Skyscanner for whenever the travel bug hits and I'm willing to go to any destination. The app allows you to choose a date and will filter all the cheap flights to all destinations from your local airport OR you can select a destination and use the calendar function to see when it's cheapest to go. Also keep Kayak.com and Google.com/flights in your arsenal. The trick is to troll them all the time--I check flights probably about 3x a week--and compare all the different prices.
  2. Pre-plan everything, period. Use Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Google to find the best activities and eats in any city to which you're traveling. Then, follow the mentality of having an overly full schedule that you're willing to be flexible with. Make sure to also check if there are city passes or combination discounts on things like museums, performances, or guided tours. Here's a screenshot of a schedule I recently put together for when my friend, Eric, visited me in Madrid, to give you an idea of what purposeful planning looks like. Do something like this and you're sure to have everyone wondering how it's even possible to do so many cool things in such a short amount of time.
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  3. Pack light. I'm sure you've heard of the "pack everything and then bring half of it" rule. This isn't for crazy people; it's for streamlined travelers. Remember that while you're in Europe you can buy anything you might need or forget except your passport! If you're traveling for five days or less, there is no reason to pack a check-in bag. Or more than one pair of shoes. Or your "luxury" items like perfume, makeup, and the like. Wouldn't you rather have space to bring home souvenirs? Even if you're not a souvenir person, it is always smart to think could I walk up three flights of stairs with the bags I'm bringing?
  4. Stay ahead of the health curve. In order to enjoy your destination you have to be feeling yourself health-wise. Essential items in my backpack/purse/whatever bag is accessible via my plane seat are vitamin C and a multivitamin, whole fruits, water, chapstick, moisturizer, and tissues. 24 hours before you're flight, you want to be hyper-hydrating. Flying will dry you up from the inside out and chances are you're not going to be drinking enough while you're running from gate to gate. Once you're on the plane, slather on the moisturizers. Also keep in mind that products like Emergen-C and Airborne are just 1000mg shots of vitamin C with a little sugar kick. Combining a 1000mg vitamin C supplement in pill form with your normal multivitamin will do the same for much cheaper.
  5. New time zone? No naps. If you can manage it, do not sit in your hotel room, do not test the bed, and do not take a nap. Use your sleepiness as an excuse to go check out a local coffee or tea house, get some caffeine in your veins and get out and go. Sleep at your normal time according to the local time zone and set an alarm for the morning to wake up at your normal time. 
  6. Speaking of alarms, set one every day. A lot can be done in an hour. Make use of the ones you have before 12 noon. If you're touring a new city don't waste time snoozing.
  7. Do not be afraid to do things alone. At first, this might mean going to the modern art museum while your travel buddy goes to the shopping district. Who you are traveling with shouldn't necessarily dictate your plans. While compromising is great, if there is a something that you feel your trip would be incomplete without--go do it! Do some things on your own, take some baby steps, and before you know it you'll be feeling confident enough to take entire trips on your own, which is a whole different and fantastic experience.
  8. Leverage the locals. Are you hitting it off with a waiter/waitress/bartender? Ask them what they love to do in the city. Taking a guided tour? Don't be afraid to ask the guide questions outside the realm of the tour subject (ie. where's a great spot for dinner). See a line or group of people? Muster up the courage to ask someone in line what all the hubbub is about. Are you shameless? (I am, it's okay.) Jump on Tinder, get some matches, and ask them what's the good good in the city you're in.
  9. Document your experience. For me this usually means I am compulsively photographing food and drinks as well as journalling every day. In whatever way you do your thing, make sure you remember what you did. It will add to your status as a jetsetter when if and when your friends ask about a city and you're able to tell them what activities were the best, where to get great cheap food, and the best cocktails.
  10. The best takeaways aren't things. At least for me, I make a distinction between being a tourist and a traveller. I'm always trying to be the latter. For me, being a tourist means you're scratching the surface just to say you did. Being a traveller demands you engage with the culture. When you reach home again ask yourself if you learned something about the place you visited. Can you name a local artist? Do you know something new about the history? Could you give someone metro directions? Hopefully "yes" to at least one if not all.

How do you like to engage with other cities and cultures? Did I miss something essential? Let me know in the comments! Keep an eye out for my next post which will tell you all about how to tackle Paris in 48 hours--it's not enough to do the city justice, but I'll show you how to make a dent!

xx and xx,
Izzy 

Happy Thanksgiving

Madrid is a different being in the winter. 'Tis the season. I could almost say it happened overnight. The city went from gray and cold, to this:

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In my opinion, I think New York might take the win on the worlds greatest Christmas tree, but Madrid puts up a good fight. The lights are mesmerizing.  Unfortunately all the bulbs like to turn off at around 1:30 in the morning, which is somewhat hypocritical since Madrid sleeps less than the Big Apple. 

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Only a couple weeks ago, half of the Hadid family were represented all over that billboard. 

The lights got hung up around the beginning of November. Santa's elves would hang  the unlit lights late at night. The elves would do it in front of every passer-by on the street. For those who observed, it was easy to question where they were going with the design. Magically enough, it seems to have worked quite well. I need to remember to never doubt the creative minds from the North Pole. The lighting ceremony took place on Thanksgiving this year, how ironic. 

I've never felt such a dramatic change within a community, simply due to an upcoming holiday. Every plaza has its own market. Although, I'm somewhat confused, the most popular market items up for sale are a variety of colored wigs (more on that later). You can have your choice of red, pink, dark purple, blue, glitter green, and red violet. I'm confident when I say every store has been officially stocked since last Monday. 

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Starbucks holiday cups clutter the hands of locals, tourists, and me. I'm a regular order of the Gingerbread Latte Christmas Blend, grande.  Every corner has some sort of merry-go-round. I even saw a cotton candy stand chilling on the side of the road today. A young adult was eating a pink wad of it while dressed as a cow. It's all kind of incredible. The city turned in to a giant festival. 

All of the merriment floating around in the air is making me even more excited for the month of December to finally begin.

Live Large and Sparkle.

XO,

 

Flo

Thanksgiving in Madrid

I love living in Spain. I don't regret my decision in moving here for the second time. However, I always miss home the most around the holidays. Spain has plenty for Christmas, between lights strung up on the streets, Christmas music playing at Starbucks and various other areas, chestnuts roasting on the streets, etc. Thanksgiving though, is another story. It's an American holiday, plain and simple. The only thing that Spain has incorporated from our tradition is Black Friday (not going to complain about the sales!), so naturally, I missed a lot of the traditions that I usually participate in with my family. 

With all that said, my Thanksgiving here in Spain did not lack for celebration. My school loves having us share our holidays with the students, my private students were very curious and interested in Thanksgiving, and, where there are Americans, you can be sure there will be a Thanksgiving feast! This whole past week has been full of Thanksgiving and has made my heart happy, even if I still miss my traditional fall leaves and family in Tennessee. 

Here's how my week went:

Monday through Thursday I worked on some Thanksgiving activities with my private students, including hand turkeys, thanks chains, showing them our traditional food (and explaining what sweet potatoes were!), and having them come up with their own ideal feasts (perfect since they were working on food in school!). The students and families were so sweet in double checking with me ahead of time to make sure I was still okay to come on Thursday and wishing me a happy Thanksgiving when I did come. 

Wednesday at school every class participated in Thanksgiving presentations during the last hour and a half of the day. Each of us auxiliares got to go around with two other teachers to three different classes and judge their decorations, cooking, presentations, and skits. It was so much fun! I helped a lot of the students work on their activities the week and a half before they did them and it was so fun to see how they turned out! Some did better jobs than others, but it was great to see fall leaves, hand turkeys, thanks chains, skits about the first Thanksgiving, and the food they had prepared. I got to try everything from homemade apple pie to mashed potato croquetas to turkey with cranberry gravy sauce. I was actually pretty impressed with the cooking skill of middle schoolers. The teachers and students also wished me a happy Thanksgiving on Thursday.  (*Side note: I would have loved to have taken pictures, but rightly so we aren't allowed to take or post pictures of students without their parents' permission. Spain is getting better about their protection of minors). 

I also Skyped with my family on Wednesday to wish each other a happy Thanksgiving and catch upon the latest. So thankful for the technology which allows us to keep in touch! 

Saturday was our American Thanksgiving feast with friends from three additional countries (including Spain, Italy, and the UK). For being potluck style, we were able to coordinate pretty well in order to have most of the traditional foods: turkey (really chicken since it's Spain and the fridges and ovens are small), mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes, a version of apple pie, salad, and some other random American and Spanish dishes. It turned out to be a quite yummy and enjoyable party. We even went around the table and said what we were thankful for. =) 

Happy Thanksgiving weekend, ya'll!

Until next time,
Rebekah

Teaching Alongside the Aqueduct

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Hello adventurers! 

This week in Segovia, Spain consisted of Thanksgiving festivities, Science day at the school where I teach, and the fun experience of tutoring. 

The Aqueduct

First, I have failed to mention in my previous blog posts about how unique Segovia is due to the famous aqueduct.

I have other teachers in my program that are living in different parts of Spain. All of those who have been privileged enough to come visit Segovia have said that this city is definitely a must-see in Spain. The aqueduct creates a very ancient, historical feel to the center of the city. The aqueduct is said to be made around 112 AD. 

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And Segovia has yet another legend in regards to the aqueduct. It is said that many years ago when the city of Segovia was suffering due to the inability to grow crops with lack of access to a good water supply. A very young girl, who's family was at the verge of death due to unsuccessful crop-growing and dehydration called upon the devil for help. She asked the devil if he could please give her family more water to survive. The devil agreed to help the girls family. He would build an aqueduct so that water would run freely to her family, but at a cost. He told the girl that if he didn't finish the construction of the aqueduct before sun down she would have to give up her life as a sacrifice to her family. The girl agreed and the devil carefully constructed the aqueduct. Sun down arrived and the girl was in luck. Just as the devil was going to place the last stone on the aqueduct the sun set. The devil was one piece away from finishing the aqueduct and taking the girls life, to no avail. The girl lived, her family lived long-happy lives and to this day it is said that where the Virgin Mary sits in the middle of the aqueduct is an emblem in place of where the devil was to place the last stone. 

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Segovia and it's legends are amazing! 

Thanksgiving in Segovia

This week was Thanksgiving and spending it away from home was hard. But I ventured around Segovia before going to work and treated myself to food I hadn't tried in the area. And found my 'must eat food of the week'!

Must eat food of the week: Naranja glaseada, this dessert is the first I've seen of it's kind. It's an orange that is boiled in a pot with corn syrup, salt and sugar to create a 'glazed' look that surrounds the fruit, like a glazed donut. 

 

I walked into work after wandering Segovia and started to tear-up. In the staff room, on the table there was a sign that said "Connie! Happy Thanksgiving!" and laid out on the table, I was told, there was the traditional christmas candy and desserts, traditional christmas home-made bread with dried fruit, salad, and empanadas. It was the perfect was to celebrate Thanksgiving in Spain. All of the staff stayed and we all ate together. It was amazing. The teachers all greeted me with kisses and told me that they wanted me to know that I had family here in Spain, and that they couldn't let me miss my favorite holiday. 

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On top of the amazing start to my work day. I decided to give my students a silly activity for Thanksgiving. I told them to pretend that I was 'The farmer' and they were 'The turkeys' and they had to write a letter to me (the farmer) explaining why I should not eat them for Thanksgiving. 

Here I've typed up some of my favorite letters that I received:

Letter 1

"Dear Farmer,

I am one of your turkeys. I don't want that you cook me, I think is better you cook the other. My meat is tought so I am very difficult to eat but the other has a more tender meat and he is more tasty. Also I am more intelligent (I can write) so I can run away and I am faster because I am thin but the other turkey, the stupid turkey (very stupid) is slow because so you can hunt it easier and his is very fat, there are mor meat for your family and friends! Also I am sick (achoo, achoo) you can poisson your gests! Please!! Don't kill me!!"

Letter 2

"You don't have to kill me because...

Dear Farmer:

I think you don't have to kill me to eat in Thanksgiving. I don't think so because my meat is very tough, and the meat of the other turkey is tender. Another excuse is that I'm so tiny and thin, and I'am unhealthy, the contrary as the other turkey. The last think is that the other turkey isn't as fertility as me. I can satisfy all the other girl turkeys and my turkey mate can't do that. Also is very slow so is easy to hunt it instead of me. And that is a secret but I can put gold eggs. Don't kill me plis! Kill the another stupid turkey one! With love and feathers: Pavito"

I couldn't help but laugh when reading these letters!

Tutoring

This week I started helping out at a school in Segovia called, Centro Ingles as an English language tutor. I have been picking up some tutoring classes when they don't have a teacher to cover the class. Tutoring levels vary from conversational to basic and I've been having a lot of fun with it! This has been a great experience for me because the students ages range from 25 years old to 55 years of age. Teaching adults has taught me new ways to teach when I can't use songs and fun playful activities.

Advice of the week: If you're an English teacher learning the native language (not English) as your teaching your students English, show them that it's okay to make mistakes. When I ask my students questions in English, after they're done answering I'll ask them to ask me the same question in Spanish. I answer them in Spanish and show them that I'm not perfect either, Spanish is my second language and when they hear me trying to speak a different language too it gives them confidence. 

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Funny quote of the week: [Me to 12-year-old student]- What did you do this morning? Student- Wake up and bake up! Me- ...what did you say? Student- I woke up, baked some cookies and came to school Me- ...oh fantastic!

Please Let Me Plead the Fifth (#USexpatproblems)

Sometimes you’re from the U.S. and something major happens in the U.S. and all your fellow teachers want to talk to you about it, and you just want nothing more than to talk about anything else.

Even my third graders had opinions about the 2016 Presidential Election. And they're too young to know the 5th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, so I can't even plead the Fifth with them. Sigh.

Needless to say, coffee breaks were a little dicey for a while, and I wished more than anything I had lied during the first few weeks of school and claimed to be Canadian. Pro travel tip: Always tell people you’re from Canada. There are no negatives to this (besides, you know, lying). I mean, remember that awesome morale-boosting Twitter hash tag from a few months ago? Go Canada.

Anyway, I took a welcome escape to Segovia this past weekend, where I could be a tourist and ignore my nationality for a little while. Pro life tip: Find a beautiful, fairytale castle whenever suffering from never-ending streams of questions to which you absolutely do not have the answers.

The Alcázar de Segovia was the inspiration for the castle in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Historically, it was a royal residence for the Castilian monarchs, including Isabel I and Ferdinand II.

 

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Alcazár de Segovia

 

 

 

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Alcazár de Segovia from afar

 

 

 

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Castle from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

 

It was a gorgeous day, and Segovia is so beautiful. The aqueduct was incredible (and supposedly two thousand years old!); legend has it that the Devil himself was responsible for its construction. The cathedral was gorgeous, and with the bright green trees surrounding it in the middle of the stone Plaza Mayor, it looked like it was in its own little world. Everything in this little city was full of history and beauty. As I told my friends who were with me, I am starting to experience some serious city-envy!

 

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Aqueduct

 Not really, Madrid is still my favorite. Even if Antonio Machado lived in Segovia and there’s an awesome museum about him there.

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Other photos from La Granja:

 

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Palacio Real

Palacio Real

Okay I want to show you where I’ve been.

Palacio Real or The Royal Palace of Madrid is located on Calle de Bailén near metro stop Operá. Students under 26 years old get in for €5 on Sundays starting at 4p.m. I however, haven’t retrieved my TIE card (foreign residency card) yet, even though it’s been ready for a while… well because I’m a little irresponsible sometimes, so I paid €10 no big deal.

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I am not able to show the intricate details of every colorful room we walked through because it is prohibited to take photos in the majority of the palace. I was allowed to snap a photo (above) of the entryway, a beautiful vault fresco to set the scene for the rest of our tour.

Our self-guided tour, lead us through variously themed rooms inside the palace. Each room differing from the last and yet, still complementing the next. Out of all the gold paint, meticulous sculptures, detailed tapestries, and lavish paintings, the most eye-catching art piece I noticed: the Greek god Atlas. There’s a different version of his statue carrying the world on his shoulders in more than a few rooms. I must say he makes an endearing focal point.

 

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Aside from adoring the dark reds and deep royal blues, there are two rooms that I’d like to highlight for you. The first one is a dressing room that was used for Carlos III. It’s a green Chinoiserie styled room –a decorative style in Western art, furniture, and architecture, especially in the 18th century characterized by the use of Chinese motifs and techniques. It stands out against the other rooms because of its unique decorative style. You can find some Google images here.

The second room I think worth mentioning is a room made entirely out of porcelain. It’s one of the smallest rooms in the palace created from ceramics made by the Royal Porcelain Factory. You can find Google images of the room here, and you will also see the Greek god Atlas in the middle. It’s the second room that sets itself apart from the rest because of its unique design and material.

 

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Fun Facts:

-The current royal family resides in Palacio de la Zarsuela but the Royal Palace is still occasionally used for royal ceremonies.

-The rooms hold a good selection of Goyas, 215 absurdly ornate clocks, and five Stradivarius violins still used for concerts and balls (Spain, Lonely Planet).

-From what I’ve read, the original palace was named, Real Alcázar de Madrid or The Royal Alcázar of Madrid (Alcázar = Muslim Fortress) and there was a fire in 1734 burning it to the ground, but the new palace is built on the same site.

Overall it’s an easy expedition with friends or to go alone, rain or shine.

If you would like more information about the Palacio Real just follow this link.

Thanks for reading!

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