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4 posts categorized "Stephanie Scarci"

Stephanie in Spain – Week 3 and 4: Leaving A Piece Of Myself Wherever I Go

Hi all!

I decided to combine my third and fourth week into one post because my third week was spent in the forever beautiful Mykonos, Greece and my fourth week was spent preparing for the reason I am here: my teaching job! It has been a hectic few weeks, but I have really enjoyed my time traveling and also being a homebody. I’ve learned that balance is key even while abroad and it’s okay to take a break from trying to see everything by spending time at home. Also, you may be wondering why I titled my blog the way I did, but you’ll soon find out!

Week 3

Back in July, I saw a post on a Facebook page asking for people who would be interested in staying at this absolutely breathtaking villa overlooking the Aegean Sea for 5 days – and, of course, I would be insane to not say yes to that! Although I didn’t know what else I would be doing during my first month here, my heart was set on making this vacation the most enjoyable and relaxing “vacation from my vacation” possible.

There wasn’t a part of the island that isn’t absolutely breathtaking. From the natural topography to the buildings to the kindness of the people to the weather, it was so easy to take in the beautiful surroundings and feel at home even though it was all completely new. Our AirBNB was definitely the nicest place I had ever stayed in – all white, modern, and it had a lived in vibe that made it feel like home (plus the pool overlooking the sea wasn’t too bad either). Getting there at the end of September was awesome because it was the end of the tourist season (lower costs but still lots of people there) and the weather was perfection all day and everyday.

However, there were a few bumps in the road – metaphorically and actually. Driving was absolutely insane there and I drove the whole time. People honk nonstop for no reason and ATVs and scooters own the road (because most of the time the roads are old or are just dirt). Usually the roads turn into sidewalks towards town and many times I had to back down driveways in order to let buses through on those tiny roads. However, I am quite sure I’m a much better driver after dealing with the lack of rules of the road there!

Additionally, if the bumps in the roads could be a metaphor for the bumps on my face and all over my body, well…it would be a good fit! On the second day, I fell on some sort of plant in the ocean and ended up having a really painful allergic reaction that turned into a bruise, then a blood blister, and then a big and very itchy scab. During less blustery days and nights, we would have a mosquito infestation in our house while we slept – and they particularly liked the feast on my face, hands and feet. At the end of the trip, I had approximately 150 bug bites in total with about 45 of them being on my face, and the rest on my legs, hands, and the remaining allergic reaction spot. However, I refused to let these things ruin my plans for this trip and decided that I would handle things once I got back to Madrid!

We spent the week mostly on the beaches, trying Greek food, shopping, dancing at the beach clubs and just enjoying each other’s company and soaking it all in. My most favorite part of the trip was spending half of the last day on a boat tour watching the sunset! It was the most incredible travel experience I ever had because I had never been on a true sail boat and I was able to experience it all in Greece! Most of the girls I was with came with me on the tour so we had the whole boat to ourselves plus the crew sailing us around. We had wine and beer and the company was nice enough to throw in a few bottles of prosecco as well! There were two stops where we were able to snorkel and see fish, plants and even ancient Greek steps and pottery used on one of the islands. The water was so clear and blue and it led to some really memorable GoPro pictures and videos! While we were sailing, the crew also prepared an amazing dinner of lamb, chicken, feta cheese, salad, grilled veggies and pita and we were able to enjoy it while watching the sunset. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect end to a vacation and would glad get on a sailboat again, especially in Mykonos.

Week 4

Although I had opportunities to travel this past week, I felt that it was better for me to be a homebody and just relax, recover and prepare for the upcoming week. My skin was so itchy from the bug bites and getting the more-judgemental-than-usual stares from the Madrileños was difficult to handle well. So, I made my apartment feel like home and made Chicken Noodle Soup, my favorite fall-time recipe, which made me feel warm, comfortable and relaxed. After a few days of being a homebody with a few walks around Retiro Park, I went with a few friends on a hike around San Lorenzo de El Escorial (which was my first real hike)! It is a beautiful town outside of the city center of Madrid and the views from the outside of the town were absolutely stunning. We hiked about 9 miles and, of course, right at the almost end of our hike, I fell, scraped my knee and ruined my favorite pair of leggings. However, the tinto de verano and tapas before the bus ride back made it all better! Having the hike was a great way to cap off this month of exploration and put me in the mode to start my teaching journey.

After these past two weeks, I have broadened my horizons, tried new things I never had the opportunity to before and made lasting friendships and memories. My best advice during your travels is to always leave a piece of yourself at each place you go – and no, please don’t fall and scrape your knee, get eaten alive by mosquitos or have an allergic reaction. I mean always leave a mark on everywhere you go and leave a corresponding mark on your heart. Share. Explore. Laugh. And don’t be afraid to get messy, because sometimes it leads to the best memories!

Adios until next week!

-Stephanie in Spain

 

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Stephanie in Spain – Week 2: Becoming a Madrileña

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Hola a todos!

Week 2 is under my belt (well, a little more than week 2, but I have good reasons) and I’m feeling more and more settled in. I have apartment, a bank account, a Spanish phone number, and a job for the next 10 months. The weather has taken a drastic turn from 100+ degree days with zero humidity to 68 degree days that are perfect for light sweaters and jeans. Life is pretty great so far!

My apartment is EXACTLY what I hoped it would be (Thanks, SpotAHome.com for making the process so easy) and moving in went extremely well! I’m living in the Pacifico ward of the Retiro district in the most southern region. It is definitely a much quieter area filled with many families, dogs, abuelas, and younger children. The area seems to take a huge focus on health and beauty due to the many hair salons, gyms, wholistic health stores, many fresh produce markets and dance/yoga/pilates studios. Perhaps it is because I’m within a 5 minute walking distance of the largest park in Madrid, El Parque de El Retiro, but I’m looking forward to finding a weekly exercise class and taking many walks in the park! Although they take a big focus on health here, I also came across a craft beer shop within two minutes of walking from my apartment and there are many pizza shops, bakeries and restaurants. The only real problem is that the Metro line that takes people from Retiro to the center of the city is closed for construction and won’t be open until November 12 (the day before my birthday)! However, it will be the best birthday present ever since by that time I will be a professional at navigating the Metro lines…maybe. 

One of the highlights after moving into my apartment was going to Retiro Park with Collin, a really wonderful friend and fellow auxilar, Sophie, my Parisian roommate studying at the public university, and Brendan, another great and hilarious friend to watch the sunset. All week, I had been walking around the park on more-or-less the same route, walking around the lake watching people row boats in the 100+ degree heat trying to stay cool in the shade. However, when we went to watch the sun set with the other Madrileños, it was the first time I truly felt like I was a part of the city and this was my new home. My heart felt the most open as it ever had and I truly embraced the experience of being in a new part of the world.

Not soon after that time, I found the opportunity to go to Granada with 3 other girls from CIEE for the weekend and decided to jump on that! I had visited once before in high school for a few days and was able to enjoy los pasos during La Semana Santa (Holy Week) as well as the Alhambra, but I was really looking forward to enjoying it again as an adult – because of el vino! We had a great time exploring the city, touring the many churches watching the sunset, going to a club until 6 am, going to the beach and eating fresh seafood. I’d definitely go back again!

As soon as I got back, I also had the opportunity to explore the region my school is in as well as tour the school, meet the staff and get a feel for what my job will actually entail. Getting to the school is very easy (only a 40 minute train ride) and it will be even better once the Metro station near my apartment opens. Everyone at the school was extremely kind and friendly towards me and all of the women greeted me with their traditional a kiss on both cheeks. I physically had to hold my right hand down to avoid seeming distant by shaking hands because I never realized what a habit it was for me in the U.S.! There will be 3 other auxiliares (1 other from the U.S. and 2 from Canada) and we will be assigned to grades 1-6. There are 500 students in total and the area itself is considered to be an at risk area because of the variety of cultural backgrounds in one school (Romanian gypsies, Moroccans, Latin Americans, Ukranians, and more) as well as many of the children coming from broken families. However, I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to give these kids the attention they need as well as hopefully make a difference in at least one child’s life!

Coming up this week, I will be going to the local amusement park, maybe go on some other adventures and then I will be in Mykonos, Greece for a few days! Life is difficult here, but someone has to do it. 

Hasta Luego!

Stephanie

Stephanie in Spain - Week 1: Döner Kebabs, Tinto de Verano y Muchos Amigos

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Hola from España!

It’s hard to believe it is only the end of week 1 because it has felt like a month since I’ve left home to pursue this new adventure! Getting settled into a completely different city while assimilating to the time and language difference has been quite the challenge, but overall enjoyable. I’ve been enjoying making a ton of new friends while becoming close with my orientation group as well and overall people are quite understanding and just as excited for the experience as I am.

Before leaving for Madrid, my parents held a gathering in which everyone I was really hoping to see before I left came from all over the country! It was the most exciting thing to not only have them all together to say farewell before I left, but to also reunite both my mom’s and dad’s family after not seeing each other for years. I was absolutely floored by the day and it really helped me feel confident about going on this adventure knowing that I had so many people back home supporting my decision.

Flying into Madrid actually went quite smoothly! I was really fortunate in sitting right behind a girl from my program and sitting beside a girl from Ohio State. We may have gotten a little tipsy from the free wine at dinner but the conversations were hilarious and made me feel really comfortable during the flight. Leaving the airport was nice and easy since we made it on the first CIEE bus out and onto orientation we went!

Here are the things I’ve noticed and learned as a guiri (Spanish slang for tourist) in my first week:

1) Spaniards love to stare: It’s isn’t ever in a really judgemental way, but they love looking around at people and what they’re doing. They look at your outfit. They look at your phone on the Metro. Unlike in the U.S., it’s just a thing people do (especially when you’re not a Spaniard)!

2) Döner Kebabs = gold: Those little pockets of gyro meat, lettuce, onion, tomato, sauces and happiness are one of the few things that are keeping me sane here in a land of potatoes, bread and olive oil. Seriously though, if you love gyros as much as I do, Döner Kebabs are one step up on the comfort food scale with all of the happiness and joy. Throw in a tinto de verano (red wine with Sprite and fruit) and you’ll be in absolute heaven!

3) The paperwork doesn’t end when you get here: After going through all of the different sections of the visa paperwork, going to the appointment and jumping through all of the hoops thrown at you, YEP, there’s more to do. The TIE (tarjeta identidad de extranjero) is another fun little process that gets plopped in your lap as well as getting an abono (Metro card). However, my program was as helpful as they could be in making sure we were taken care of.

4) Public Transit is AWESOME: The Metro, the train and the busses are wonderful here. Coming from Pittsburgh where public transit is the biggest joke, I can say it is absolutely wonderful to have a reliable way to get around. Everything comes on time and arrives on time and my type-A personality jumps for joy every time.

5) The weather is insane: Walking at least 7 miles a day is one thing. Walking 7 miles a day in 100+ degree dry heat is completely another thing. It honestly feels like I’m walking through a dessert most of the times, and seeing the Madrileños walking around with sweaters and pants on only makes me sweat more. Good news is that the little grocery stores here carry 2L water bottles for less than a Euro – a necessity in this heat!

**As a point of advice for anyone coming to Madrid around this time of year, wear whatever makes you comfortable (shorts, tank tops, dresses, athletic wear – whatever you want). There is nothing too formal or too casual about anyone here. OF COURSE they will stare at you regardless, so you might as well be comfortable and not constricted trying to look like a native when you’re not. Just be yourself!**

6) Gypsies love chicken wingsWhen I came in Madrid in high school, I did not remember encountering gypsies in the center of the city, but they’re seriously everywhere! Good luck sitting outside because if you don’t give them money, they may just take a chicken wing out of your Paella Valencia.

Okay yinz, that’s what I got for ya! Coming up this week is moving from my hotel into my piso (pictures soon to follow!), getting in touch with my school and figuring out this beautiful city solo. Hasta luego!

-Stephanie

Stephanie in Spain: An Introduction!

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Hola! I'm Stephanie Scarci, a teacher and blogger for the 2016-2017 Teach in Spain program, and this is my first post for my blog - Stephanie in Spain!

    I'm a 23 year old born-and-raised Pittsburgh girl with a love of watching all of our amazing sports teams and exploring in and around the city as much as possible. Travel has always been a huge passion of mine: I've been to China in the summer of 2008 (right before the Olympics) and Spain during Semana Santa in Spring 2011 as well as Mexico and Aruba for vacation, and can't wait to add to the list! I also love working with children and have had to opportunity to do so in the classroom, while I was a figure skating coach, and through different volunteering activities. So, as a new graduate from the University of Pittsburgh in the Spring of 2015, I figure this would be a great opportunity to bring together both of those and applied right away!

    I have so many goals and bucket list items to accomplish during these 10 months abroad! First and foremost, I plan on becoming more fluent with my Spanish speaking skills because there isn't any better way to do that then to just dive into it. Secondly, I hope to be the best Language and Culture Assistant I can be to my school and my classes and make a real difference in the classroom. Beyond that, I hope to travel as much as possible around Spain and Europe in general and starting crossing these items off! A few I can list are skydiving over the Swiss Alps, stay out until sunrise at Kapital in Madrid, spend a week in Santorini, bathe in the Széchenyi Baths in Budapest, and SO many more! 

    Now that I have my visa and one-way plane ticket, and have met so many other teachers like myself, I'm ready to move into this exciting new adventure and look forward to sharing it with you all. My posts will (hopefully) be weekly and I look forward to sharing pictures taken along the way, videos from my GoPro adventures and words of advice that I'll be learning along the way! 

Adios for now! 

P.S. If you want to check out my personal blog, head to my Tumblr page!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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