Explore
Questions/Comments?Contact Us

Springtime and Easter

At school, we recently finished the second trimester and just got out for Semana Santa. I think everyone needed this week and a half break, students and teachers alike. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon of spring, which means this year it was a little bit later than usual. Since we are in Spain, the end of the second and start of the third trimesters are planned around this Easter break, making for an almost 4 month-long trimester. We still had some days off between New Year's and now, but everyone was getting a little antsy at school. Here are some tips for how to keep your students engaged until the end:

1. Get the students involved. Lectures just before a long break will put anyone to sleep. It's actually recommended for language learning that the students should be doing about 70% of the talking and the teachers only about 30%. Since a lot of people travel during this time off, we had students tell us about all their exciting upcoming adventures. 

2.  Have fun. Playing games (some of our favorites are board races, charades, mafia, guess who, etc. will go a long way to keeping your students not only awake, but also enjoying the learning process. Since it was Easter, we did an Easter egg hunt within the classroom after talking about traditional celebration differences between Spain and the US and the relevance behind our symbols. I brought in chocolate eggs for the hunt, and since quite a few students were out on a school trip, it thankfully wasn't an expensive splurge (for my private students I also made cookies or dyed eggs with them).

Image may contain: food


3. Change it up a bit. Students get bored doing the same thing over and over again. Since it was right before break and we don't watch a lot of videos, we decided to show some Easter videos (Charlie Brown & the History Channel proved to be good resources for this). The students did have to take notes and discuss what they saw afterwards, but they were happy to see Snoopy and Charlie Brown instead of doing more grammar exercises. 

4. Encourage participation. Even if a student makes more mistakes than what he gets right, I still want him to try! You learn from trying and correcting your mistakes when you make them. If a student knows you will be encouraging and not condescending when they make mistakes, they will be more likely to try and get involved. 

5. Build good rapport with your students. This is something that started way back at the beginning of the year, but having them know that you respect and care about them goes a long way in keeping them engaged. This can be done in several ways, but with my students, I listen and respond whenever they have concerns and do my best to make sure the games that we play are as fair as possible. I might also have secret handshakes now with several students in the school. =) 

Well, I'm off to go explore Cordoba and revisit Sevilla and Huelva for Semana Santa! I'm sure I will have plenty to post about once I get back. Until then, happy Easter! 

Type A & Travel: How the Two Fit Together

People travel to discover a new side of themselves, to explore new lands, to push their boundaries. Traveling extensively (and moving to a new country) demands taking a leap of faith that everything will play out the way it was intended to (that is, if you believe in fate). This requires a "go-with-the-flow" mentality, a Type B personality (and maybe a little of a "Type T" attitude, as my mom likes to describe thrill seekers like my dad). So how, then, do the Type A people fit into all of this? Speaking from personal experience, lists and Google Docs and months-in-advance planning can be incredibly beneficial, especially when visiting a foreign land. While it would be nice to be the type of person who can wake up one morning, decide to pack a bag and be on the next flight to some exotic location, planning in advance is necessary (in my opinion), particularly when you're looking to partake in incredibly popular tourist excursions. Take if from personal experience, you DO NOT want to be waiting on line in the cold for hours because you didn't buy tickets in advance. So, for the following popular European tourist attractions, don't be like me and buy tickets in advance (but if you were like me, here's how to still get tickets the day of).

  • La Alhambra (Granada, Spain)

Having rightfully earned the title of most visited site in Spain, this fortress and palace sells out months in advance. If you weren't lucky enough to buy tickets online, I've heard that you can buy from a secondary website (some travel websites will buy La Alhambra tickets for the sole purpose of reselling them), but I don't have personal experience with this. If you're looking to get tickets the same day as visiting, be prepared to wake up early. Same-day tickets go on sale at 8 a.m. so plan on getting there no later than 6 a.m. (at least that was the case in mid-September). Yup, that early. There are two ticket lines; one for cash only sales and the other for cards. My recommendation: split up so that you have at least one person standing on each line in order to maximize your chances of getting tickets. 

DSC_0611

  • Anne Frank House (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Tickets to this powerful museum go on sale two months in advance. Buy your tickets then because they will be sold out in a very short period of time. If you don't, same-day tickets go on sale at 3:30 p.m., but don't expect to waltz up to the ticket counter at 3:30. There will already be a line wrapped around an entire block by this point. I've heard and read to go around 2 p.m. to start waiting. I didn't, and my friend and I waited on line for three hours (and it was a stereotypical overcast, rainy, cold day in Amsterdam).

  • Guinness Factory (Dublin, Ireland)

Now this one I can't say how to beat the same-day ticket line, as I invoked my Type A-ness and bought tickets ahead of time (knowing that I would be there St. Patrick's Day weekend), but what I can recommend is to avoid going that weekend, if possible. Also, ticket prices vary depending on the time of day, day of the week, and time of the year, so plan accordingly.

I can imagine there are many more popular sites in Europe that their tickets should be bought months in advance (if my memory serves me correctly, the Eiffel Tour is one of those), but these are just the ones I've had experience with this time around. So, be that thrill seeker and decide one morning to jump on the next plane, but if there are specific things you would like to see and do, take my advice and plan in advance (although I'm sure I won't always follow my own words of wisdom).

 

Keep on traveling (& planning),

Sarah

Life Is a Carnaval

As Easter approaches and March comes to a close, I am reminded of the celebration of Carnaval which opens the season of Lent. Like my elementary school used to celebrate Mardi Gras, my school here celebrated Carnaval, the difference being that Carnaval celebrations lasted the entire week! Each day had a different theme for dressing up: crazy hat day, crazy neckwear day, crazy socks day, face paint day, and a day of full costumes (I dressed like a tiger, with a tail!).

The kids got to parade around our town (Boadilla del Monte) in their costumes and, afterwards, enjoy some chocolate a la taza (or Spanish style hot chocolate) and biscuits. The kids love seeing their normally serious teachers all dressed up, and we have fun dancing with them and marching around the city with them. It's an incredibly sweet and fun day for everyone.

Since our school is focusing on teaching about India this year, some teachers dressed like Gandhi and we all made signs with quotes from Gandhi or other famous and inspiring figures from India. 

Of course, I took many, many photos:

IMG_7516

IMG_7618

 

My Top 5 Outdoor Activities in Madrid

Hello everyone! Wow, it's been a while since I last wrote. My apologies. I've been a bit busy traveling and showing family around. Life has become so normal and routine (yet still quite adventuresome) that I've had to think a little bit harder about what to write. Since some of you have either just been accepted to teach in Madrid or are seriously considering it, let me share with you some of the outdoor activities I enjoy doing in Madrid, most of which you can do year-round. 

1. Playing tennis in Casa de Campo
I had never played tennis before coming to Spain, but I've always enjoyed playing sports. Volleyball is my favorite, but with a busy schedule during the week and often traveling on the weekends, I needed something more flexible. Through the Auxiliares en Madrid Facebook page, I found a tennis trainer advertisement and decided to try it out. I love learning something new and being in the huge park where I can breathe some fresh air, enjoy the sunshine, and get some good exercise at the same time. 

Image may contain: tree, sky, outdoor and nature

2. Reading a book in Retiro
This particular activity doesn't quite work when it's raining or a little too chilly out, but as Spain is primarily sunny and warm, it is something I enjoy doing quite often. The large park has plenty of green space to either lie in the shade or soak up some sun, as well as a few places to enjoy a coffee while you read, if you prefer.  

Image may contain: tree, plant, table, outdoor and nature

3. Sipping a coffee in Plaza Mayor
To be honest, the food in Plaza Mayor isn't great, but the people watching is amazing! Coffee and people watching are two of my favorite things, and Plaza Mayor provides both. It can be quite amusing to see tourists taking pictures with Fat Spiderman (yes, that's an actual character who frequents the plaza), the headless captain, or a myriad of other people dressed up in hopes of earning some money through photos. It's also fun to try to guess who is from what country based on how they are dressed or what language you think they are speaking. 

Image may contain: one or more people, sky and outdoor

4. Riding a bike along the river
No worries, there are plenty of places to rent a bike for a reasonable price here in Madrid, since many of you probably won't be trying to haul yours over from the states. After successfully renting your bike, you can hop on the lovely path that goes along the river, with a view of the palace and cathedral. This path also leads into Casa de Campo, if you're interested in some different paths with more hills. 

Image may contain: one or more people, people riding bicycles, tree, bicycle, outdoor and nature

5. Hiking in the mountains 
If you are under 25, your transportation card can get you to the mountains surrounding Madrid for free (well, included in the 20 euros a month you pay for the card). If you are over 25 or just visiting Madrid, the mountains are about an hour and some pocket change away. So far, I've been to the Cercedilla and La Pedriza areas, both a few times each. My favorite part about hiking here is being out in nature (away from the city buildings, traffic, and noise), enjoying the beautiful views the mountains have to offer, and spending time with the friends I'm hiking with. 

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, mountain, outdoor and nature

Of course, there are also plenty of places to go for a run, window shop, etc., but I decided to stick with my top 5. You can figure out your own top 5 once you arrive and explore the city for yourself, but here's a place to start. =) 

Hasta luego!

The Winter Travel Bug

Europe is real cool. That sums it up well. No complicated sentence, no GRE vocabulary necessary. Europe is real cool. Smooth. It's a jazz song and every city has its own rhythm. Especially Spain. 

I'm based in Madrid, clearly. Recently I took a trip up to the Basque Country. Made my way north. Some friends and I rented a car and took the long route through the mountains and Spanish pueblos. We drove through the clouds. We pulled over to watch the clouds rise up from behind a mountain. Some people watch sunsets, my amigas and I, we watch clouds. 

91AB965C-C623-4D6F-8F7D-1FC3BD37C4AD

We landed first in Bilbao and then hit San Sebastian. Bilbao was on my list. I created a Spanish travel list. It's not long, in fact only two places are on it.

  1. Bilbao
  2. Sevilla

I can't tell you what it is that captivates me about the names of these cities. I would be a happy girl going home in July having only seen these two cities in Spain. Though, I will have seen much more. 

The Basque Country speaks its own language.  The citizens have a unique accent. Their food is...interesting. They specialize in pintxos. These are small snacks that sit out all day long at bars. Spaniards will have a drink at eleven o' clock at night and munch on these plates that were made at nine in the morning that day. This includes eggs, fish, ham...and other categories that some might agree taste best fresh. I think we can all see where I stand on this issue. Not my fav. Culturally amazing, but not my fav. 

Bilbao is famous for the Guggenheim. It's a small city, but this museum is home to a few Pollock's. I didn't go in to the museum, I spent most of the time with the giant spider that chills behind it by the river. It's as weird as it sounds. I don't expect anything less, coming from an art center. 

San Sebastian had it's beach. One of Hemingway's go-to vacation spots, if anyone is curious. You can Google Image it. Something about lying down in the cold sand, the same spot Hemingway dug his feet into decades ago. I felt an overwhelming connection with this stranger of a writer I never met.

IMG_5414

Basque Country, Basque surfing. Just out here, keeping it trill. Live Large and Sparkle.

XO,

 

Flo 

IMG_5443

Top 5 Excuses NOT to Travel

Hi friends!

I wanted to talk about a pet peeve and arch-nemesis of mine: EXCUSES. We hear them all the time and even make them all the time, mentally or to anyone around us. They can be the chains we put on ourselves; they hinder progress and stop us from having fun or stepping outside of our box! I wanted to remind anyone who reads this that only YOU can stop you. My boyfriend and I have been counting down the days until each little checkpoint--Visa instructions, placement, Visa appointment and our eventual departure to Spain. It's so overwhelming, but we've received so many wonderful blessings and warm support from friends, families and strangers! We get a LOT of questions and so many people say "UGH! I wish I could do that TOO!" We always say, "Apply, do it!" But we're met with EXCUSES. I wanted to counter the top 5 I've heard and read about:

Imgres

"I'm broke!"

Don't let money stop you! You HAVE TO BUDGET! After extensive research scouring blogs and books, I've found that exploring the world does not have to be expensive.  You can even enjoy some cities for cheap or even free. There are a lot of creative ways to save money! For example, with my regular paychecks at work, I have 80% directly deposited to my checking and the remaining 20% directly deposited to my savings. This little trick allowed me to save more than I ever have in my lifetime. If I don't have the money in my checking, I can't spend it! You have to know where your money is going. Maybe you DON'T need that extra $13 cocktail or the $3.00 guac. Check out these awesome budgeting templates from the Huffington Post here!

"An investment in travel is an investment in yourself!" - Matthew Karsten

Imgres

"I won't be able to get a job once I come back to the U.S.!"

Did you know that 75% of the CEOs leading Fortune 100 companies have international experience? You'll find that most employers value leadership, organization, self-starters, and people with excellent problem solving and communication skills! The challenge and experience of living abroad will certainly inject or increase these soft skills in you! Check out Forbes' Six Myths to Ignore About Working Overseas! UC Merced also released info on the benefits of having experience abroad. International experience doubled the chances of securing a job, imparted valuable job skills and secured higher salaries!

“So much of who we are is where we have been.” – William Langewiesche

Imgres-2

"I'm too scared to fly!"

Did you know that you're actually more likely to be STRUCK BY LIGHTNING than to die in an airline accident? It's true! There's only a 1 in 8 million chance to die from a plane crash vs. a 1 in 6.3 million chance to get struck by lightning! Not to be bleak, but you're also more likely to die from drowning, a gunshot wound, a car accident, or heart disease...

“Man [and women] cannot discover new oceans unless he [or she] has courage to lose sight of the shore.” - Andre Gide

"I can't make a living out there!"

Sure you can! With programs like CIEE Teach Abroad you get a monthly stipend to teach English in many countries like Spain or Thailand. With great planning, this can pay out your monthly rent, phone service, transportation expenses and food! You can also pick up some extra cash by private tutoring. Since you only have a 16-hour workweek, that's an additional WHOLE day in your week to generate income & travel! You can also find REMOTE U.S. jobs, and/or blog for a living—see here: http://www.nomadicmatt.com/travel-blogs/how-to-create-a-travel-blog/! 

“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.” –Susan Sontag

45774146

"I can't just leave everyone/thing behind!"

Hey! Don't think about it like that, but...YES YOU CAN. You will most certainly be missed. And you will also miss them...well maybe not the ones that never text back... But consider all of the experiences, growth, and knowledge you will obtain from taking the challenge of living in another country. Every single minute, $1.8 million is spent on travel, you are not alone! Plus, maybe you can bring a friend or (existing) significant other with you! The opportunity of a lifetime awaits you, and your community will welcome you home with open arms!

A wise anonymous human once said, "We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us."

Abrazos,

Kamalía

Cage the Elephant

Similar to the Cheetah Girls, there is one more band that takes over the life of a millennial. Three words: Cage the Elephant. The truth, you are either team love or hate.

When I was in seventh grade, I was new to town. When everyone at the local bus stop would gossip, I had my headphones plugged in playing "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked." 

That was over ten years ago, because I was a fan before their debut album dropped. 

Three Italians and I, made our way to Sala Riviera. We got lost, seven months in Madrid and still getting lost. You have no idea how many Concierto Riviera's there are in the La Latina barrio. Several.  A few times we had to use the aseos, this required stopping for cervezas because local shops obvi want our financial support first.  

We missed the first act, which I was personally okay with because I still don't remember their name. We arrived on time and I jammed out, singing every lyric, every word, with three Italians who were equally involved, but lacking similar memories that I used to connect with C.T.E.

D3465ADA-C071-4EF4-A930-332A4BEEAC2A

IMG_5114

The group members were lit. Matt and Brad Shultz, Daniel, Jared, and Lincoln. Lit names. First, I'm in love with Matt. He owned the stage. Everyone stood still, working their instruments, but Matt, he didn't stop to take a breath once. He ran from one side of the stage to the other, screaming "Nashville, Tennessee." He swung his arms everywhere in his "Tokyo" studded jacket. His flaming reddish hair dripped in sweat. Daniel stood right-downstage, strumming his bass guitar, lighting cigarettes, and living in the music he produced. 

The passion was there. I've seen Beyonce. I've seen T-Swift. I've even seen Kanye. They all bring it, they do. But Cage the Elephant was another level of beauty. 

One side of this story is, I'm in Madrid and I went to go see a band from Nashville Tennessee... I get it. The thing is, sometimes a taste of home in a foreign city can be comforting, even when you don't realize you need the comfort. Many times I forget celebrities have international fans. I think of Drake and I only picture Americans singing a long to his songs. I forget that Italy, China, Australia, Denmark, Chile, and more are singing the same chorus in another time zone, another hemisphere. To be placed in a pit of Spanish speakers all waving their arms and singing the wrong words to songs they maybe listened to as much as me, it was, for lack of a better word, breathtaking. 

Live Large and Sparkle.

XO,

 

Flo

Happy Birthday, Plaza Mayor! ¡Felicidades por 400 años!

So this year is the 400th anniversary of Plaza Mayor, and to celebrate, the city of Madrid put on an amazing light and projections show.

The projections told the story of Plaza Mayor from its founding to the present day. At one point the plaza went up in projected flames; at another it transformed into a music box. Standing in the square, surrounded by buildings, with projections on all four sides, it feels like being a part of the show. Having all the people in the plaza surrounded by the story turned the audience into active members of the show, shouting "bravo" or clapping or screaming in fright (the little girl next to me screamed the entire fire scene). It was very immersive, and a very cool example of bringing history to life (especially since it utilized such modern technology).

Here's a photo...

IMG_7465

...and a video from the show:

***Password to view is PlazaMayor400***

Happy 400th Anniversary, Plaza Mayor! May you be around for 400 more!

 

 

Around Town, Now Featuring: Rain

I tend to organize my days around meals. On the weekends, that means brunch and dinner. 

When I heard I needed a costume for my school's Carnaval celebration, the first place to look that popped into my head was El Rastro (a huge outdoor market right in the center of Madrid that runs 9am-2pm every Sunday--you're welcome). As my friend and I wanted brunch at a reasonable brunch time (which in Spain, is anywhere from 11-1:30), we decided we would rastro from 10ish-noon, then head to Panela (a not-too-pricey brunch place of dreams in the posh Salamanca neighborhood). 

As it turns out, if you head to El Rastro by passing through metro Embajadores, there are these amazing sections of wall painted in all different styles (by, I presume, different artists). They are stunning. 

Here're a couple photos:

 

IMG_7416
My friend the boat

 

IMG_7416
As they say, "a concrete jungle"

 

Anyway, we got a bit carried away playing with the murals. Which was fine until we realized we had paint/plaster ALL OVER US. It was somehow dry, yet still able to spread onto all of our clothing and purses. I fundamentally disagree with the formula and manufacturers of this wall paint. I for one certainly hope it was not certified as waterproof.

Anyway, after 20 minutes of tissue wiping and hand sanitizing, we were starting to get hungry, so we only ended up poking around the market for just a little over an hour, then were on our way to brunch.

So we arrived at Panela, only to find out that it is not open on Sundays. Heartbreak. Well, being the hungry munchkins we were, we quickly decided to go to another little place, Crepes and Waffles (a huge international chain that started in the Americas), which was a solid choice because their food (and waters! and juices!) are fantastic.

A sample:

 

IMG_7396
It's called "Hidrátate"

 

IMG_7396
Dessert (of course) 

As I was still costume-less due to our limited time at El Rastro, after brunch we popped into a little bazaar-market. I'm on a budget, so when I saw a €2 tiger tail there, that made my decision. I will be a tiger for my school's Carnaval celebration next week. Sunday shopping trip success.

The New Auxiliar in Town

One of our auxiliars had to return home for good over winter break, leaving my school short an assistant. Because of the short time from when the auxiliar notified the school she could not return after winter break to the start of classes in January, we had to find someone who was either an EU citizen or had legal permanent residence/visa that would allow that person to work in our school. Luckily, one of our teachers is married to an American citizen who was studying education in grad school. He was up for the job, and we met our new Auxiliar a couple weeks ago.

Which meant we could *finally* finish our meet the auxiliars bulletin board which we had been working on since October (a day in the life of an auxiliar at our school involves a lot of one-on-one time with students or lesson support with teachers and not much time for crafts). So when a fellow auxiliar and I had to come in our day off (we are making up some days), we got to work on all things decoration/motivational poster inspired.

How'd we do?

Image

 

Keep Me Updated