Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hasta Luego Espana, it has been fun!

As I am “enjoying” my  16 hour commute back to the states I have been reflecting on my past year abroad and all that I have learned.

1)      Make the people you love a priority over anything else. Work will come and go and of course it should be important, but it isn’t your life.  The people in your life is what should matter most.

2)Work in order to live, do not live to work.  After coming back to the states I have seen this difference the most.  We are too concerned about working and not as concerned about living our life and spending it with family and friends.  Take time to do things for yourself such as traveling or even small things such as watching your favorite TV show every week.  We need to find time for ourselves or else we would go crazy.  Jobs will come and go but in the grand scheme of things, you need to make yourself happy.  Find whatever makes you happy and do it!

3)      It doesn’t matter where you are, it is who you are with.  You can be in the most beautiful place in the world but you won’t be happy if you are not with the people that you love.  In any situation it will be nice for a little while maybe a month if you are by yourself but after a while you will start to miss your loved one. 

And in any case it is better to be by yourself than with bad company.  A true Spaniard told me that when I was at the bar on the river enjoying a cup of coffee by myself.  He asked me why I was by myself and I didn’t have an answer for him.  So that’s what he told me, it’s better to be by yourself than being with bad company! So true J

4)      Sometimes as Americans we tend to get stressed out frequently and all we really need to do is have a beer and chill out! Haha Last night I was freaking out about leaving the country and not having everything packed up/ not having my bank account closed/ not having my internet cancelled and all I needed to do was just to relax because in the end, 
everything works out fine.  I realized this past week that I freak out and worry way too much.

5)      I have learned to be more assertive.  Here in Spain they speak the truth and right to the point.  There’s really no beating around the bush.

What I am going to miss about Spain:
v  Maria Luisa Park
v  The Pedalquivir- my favorite bar on the river
v  11am coffee breaks
v  Being able to yell at waiter’s to bring me a beer.  In Spain everything is to the point and informal. In the states we are a lot more polite.  How to order a beer in Spain: “Get me a beer!” How to order a beer in the States:” When you get a chance, can you get me a beer?”
v  The cafelitos!
v  Seeing the abuelitos ( Grandparents) out until 12pm socializing, every night!
v  I love how social Spaniards are, they know the true meaning of fun.  The other day I was going to work at 7:30 in the morning and people were coming home from the night before at the same time.  How in the world do they stay out so late?! No comprendo!

What I’m not going to miss:
          vBeing called “Rubia” ( Blonde girl) like it is my name!
  v  Eating dinner at 9:30 at night
  v  Not having any sense of customer service

Now being back home these are the things I didn’t realize I missed so much:
v  Root Beer
v  Fountain drinks- FREE REFILLS!
v  Going out with gym shorts and a Tshirt on and not being judged
v  Drive through windows
v  Bagels with cream cheese
v  Cold fresh milk!
v  Nice hot showers with water pressure
v  Being able to order water with your meal and not feel like you’re being judged
v  Customer Service
v  French Vanilla coffee from Dunkin Donuts
v  Being able to have a salad with lots of vegetables and ranch dressing
v  Having so many options. For example: The other day I wanted to buy some face wash and the worker spent 15 minutes explaining all of the options of face wash that I had.  In Spain there generally aren’t as many options.  Such as beer, only 1 time, the lovely Cruzcampo.

Just to give you a visual: All of the bright red boxes are the cities that I visited in Spain( Dont get confused with the maroon little circles, I haven't been to all of those places!).  As you can see I visited mostly southern Spain.  If I were to do it over again I would have visited San Sebastian and cities in Galicia and Asutrias.  I heard that those areas are absolutely stunning!

Another visual for you:  All of the countries that I visited while in Europe! These cities consist of: Spain, Ireland, United Kingdon, France, Portugal, Netherlands, Switzerland.

On the last day of class Ali and I ( the other asistant) gave a presentation to all of our classes about our job (what it is like to be an assistant) and all of the cultural differences that we have noticed between Spain and the USA ( There are A LOT of differences!)

This is a picture of me with the third level class: The american looking girl in the front with the white skirt is Ali.  To the right of her, standing up on the end, is Alumdena, the Music teacher, and Felix, my coordinator. I worked with both of them!

This is the second level class, my favorites!  My favorite student was Laura, the young girl sitting down in the front with the blue pants and white shirt.  She was the cutest thing! The little boy in the front in the red shirt ( the one on the left) his name is Javi ( Javier).  He was so smart!  He reminded me of Brian.  Even when Brian came to visit he said that Javi resembled him, weird!  The teacher on the right is Rosa. Even though she drove me crazy just about every week, you still gotta love her!

This next picture is of Pilar, she was one of my favorite teachers! Even through the language barrier she could always make me laugh. This is a cake that one of the students made for my going away party!

 A group of some of the teachers I worked with! From left to right: Ali ( the other assistant), Maria ( on the top, she was a new math teacher that started working about 2 months before i left, i loved her! She is so spunky and always has a smile on her face), Rosa ( I already explained her),  ME!, Almudena ( one of the younger teachers, very nice and knows English very well!), Miguel ( the "Head master" Principal of the school! I didn't get to know him that well because he was always busy with his job and his English wasn't that great, nor was my Spanish, so our conversations never lasted that long. He is very nice and is a good principal as well!)

 My last few days of enjoying Spain:

Sarah and Ana- two of my good friends!

Sarah with our Chicken Kebabs, the ended up not being cooked enough, had to send them back in to the cook!

Whitney and I on her last night in town!
 Trip to Italica to see some Roman ruins!...
View of some of the tiles in Neptunes house
In the Amphiltheatre

The Amphitheatre! Pretty neat!

Whitney being Whitney, acting like a Monkey and climbing on everything!

Last views of the Cathedral

Last views of the Giralda!

View of San Salvador Cathedral from the top of Sarah's roof, it looks face doesn't it?!

Sarah and Whitney 

Sarah and I!

 I am so glad that I decided to come to Spain.  In my opinion, everyone should do something like this in their life.  I have learned so much about not only other people’s cultures but also my own.  Being in other countries you really realize how much you do love certain things about where you are from and you learn to appreciate what you have.  It is so important to know what else is happening in this world besides what is happening just in the States. This was a rewarding experience because I was able to meet so many different people from other countries and within the states as well.  I feel lucky to have been able to do this and I hope that the economy in Spain is able to keep up this program for more years to come! Even though last summer I was very hesitant, unsure, and scared of the year that I had in front of me, I am SO glad that I went through with decision and followed my dream to Spain!

Hasta Luego Espana, te echo de menos! (See you soon spain, I miss you!)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lagos= Heaven!

Hello All!

Only 5 more days until I am home! I can't believe it but I am ready to head back, even though I know I will miss it once I leave!  This week will consist of packing up my stuff and seeing a few last things before I leave.  I am going to revisit some of my favorite places in this city such as Maria Luisa Park, the bar on the river, and the  gardens in the Alcazar.  I plan on writing my last blog while I am on my long plane ride home!

My friend Whitney left to go to Madrid today.  It was so nice having a friend around these past couple of weeks.  It worked out well because I was able to show her around to all the restaurants and see everything I wanted to for the last time as well. This the highlight was going Kayaking in the Guadalquivir  river.  Luckily we didn't fall in the river, lets just say the water isn't the cleanest!  Afterwards we went out for ice cream at Rayas, the best ice cream joint in Sevilla! The weather was beautiful yesterday.  Sunny, blue skies, with a nice breeze, it was great!  At night we went out for tapas and drinks with a few friends.  I am definitely going to miss all of the friends that I have met here.  Not sure exactly when I will see them next and that is not the easiest to think about!

SOO I will save the rest of that talk for my next blog.  Now onto talking about LAGOS, PORTUGAL!

Let's just say, this is the most beautiful place I have been too.  Ireland was beautiful, don't get me wrong. But Portugal is just beyond words.  You will just have to see for yourself in the pictures and you will see why.

What I loved about this trip was that in Lagos there is not much to see besides the beaches.  So, there was no pressure to try to fit 10 things into a days schedule. Also our hotel was right on the most popular beach in town.  It was a 30 second walk down to the most beautiful beach I have ever seen.  We got a great deal.  18 euros a night for a sea view room with a balcony, a pool with a view of the ocean, 30 seconds away from the beach, a huge bed, and breakfast included! Can't find that anywhere in the states. We did a few things in the center such as visiting their slave "Museum". It turns out that Lagos was a port that they did slave trading.  They had a mini museum which consisted of 1 one that explained a little about the history.
Our Beautiful beach!

View from our Balcony

As you all probably know, the economy is Portugal is going downhill.  Just like Spain and Greece!  I can see how it is affecting Portugal even more so than I see it in Spain. There were a lot more buildings that were vacant because of business that weren't able to keep their business going.  There was a HUGE hotel next to ours that was shut down and blocked off so no one could go and live in there.  We saw a few run down houses that you could tell squatters/homeless were living there. We went out to lunch one day and we asked how long many years they were open for and they said " We have been here for three years and we are so happy that we have been there for that long because no one is able to keep their business going here!" It is sad that a beautiful place like Lagos does not have the money to keep going.  I hope that they find a way to get their economy up again!  Another odd thing is that mostly everyone there was British.  Almost everyone spoke English.  I only met a handful of people that were actually Portuguese.  Quite strange.  Makes me wonder.  How long will it take for that city to be completely taken over by Britain? It basically is now.
Just to give you a visual
 We also went on a boat tour that took you through all of the beautiful rocks and "caves".  That was by far the high light of my trip.  The boat drivers are so talented.  They get you to fit into these little passage ways through rocks that have formed.  There were at least 5 times I thought that we were going to hit some of the rocks but to my surprise we did not! Our boat driver was pretty cool.  During the tour he asked 
" Do you mind if we make a little detour so I can say hi to a friend?" We said sure. 
 Then he asked " Do you girls like free beer?" and we said "Of course!" And he said okay well I'll see what I can do.

... two minutes later we see a boat that they call the "booze cruises".  Basically the young spring breakers pay to go on a boat and get drunk for a few hours.  Our boat driver had friends that were driving the booze cruise boat and he threw us beer into our little boat.  So we got a pretty sweet deal!  10 Euros for the coolest boat ride i've ever been on, and a beer included.  Can't complain!
On our boat tour
Pictures on our tour...

Our tour guide!

There was also another cool thing that happened to us. Being so close the beach we went there everyday, naturally.  Each day we were there we saw two young guys pull up with a boat and they kept docking the boat so that they could go and get beers to bring them on their boat.  We saw the first two days but didnt say anything to them, then the third day we saw them I told Whitney: " Hey Whitney, why don't you go flirt with those guys so we can get on their boat?"  So what did she do? She did what I asked her to and we got on their boat! It was GREAT! They took us for another boat ride around the caves.  So that was good fun! The two guys were our age and they were from England.  I always love hearing a British accent.  Just the words they use are so comical, one of my favorites being" Oh bloody hell!". They use the word "bloody" in place of our swear words, thats what it seems like at least.  On our last day the boys were up at 10am already at the beach and we were able to get another ride before we got on the dreadful 5 hour bus ride.

We were planning on heading back to Sevilla on that Sunday but our bus was sold out, so we had to come back on Monday instead. So we were stuck in Lagos for an extra day, not a bad place to be stuck in for an extra day.  :) 

We went to a really good hamburger joint called "Nah Nah Bah" ( suposed to sound like Banana Bar).  I ordered their burger that is ranked in the top 50 hamburgers ( not sure if its ranked out of just Europe or what, but still pretty cool!).  The burger was huge, I couldn't eat it all but it's ingriedients that made it special were the bacon and pineapple! There was an authentic Portguese restaurant that everyone told us to go to but of course it was closed for the three days that we were there due to "Personal reasons".  Whatever those reasons were, we were not happy! What are the chances of that?

My Burger

Other than that, we were just beach bums for the rest of the trip.  It was the best last trip to end this adventure of mine.  I am so happy that I chose to go to Lagos!

Now, just see for yourself the beauty of this city!  This is exactly what I picture heaven to look like...

Whitney jumping off the rock, I didn't have the courage to do it!

View from the hike we went on one morning.

Anything a little odd about this picture? 

A castle on the water
Spotted a rainbow!

Picnic on the beach :)

I love this picture!

My heart in the process of being washed away!
The two boys we met.  And We were able to meet up with my friend Christine that came in one night!
Driving the boat!

Stay tuned for my last blog that I will post, probably next week! Can't wait to see you all so soon!
As they say in Spain, Hasta Pronto! Besos!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I wish I was Irish!

Beautiful skyline in Dublin

     Sorry for taking so long to post about Ireland, even though I haven’t been that busy I haven’t found the time to blog about it! This week I barely had work, what else is new? On Monday I had two meetings and one class.  Tuesday I had one class and they were giving presentations in Spanish so I didn’t have to do anything and the rest of my classes were on a field trip to the Beach.  What school approves of going to the beach for a 2 day field trip?! Crazy.  On Wednesday was the 25th Anniversary of my school, so all of my classes were cancelled.  And Thursday and Friday there is no school  because it is the Feria in Dos Hermanas.  So  in the end I only had one class, what kind of job is this? Haha I feel like I have more days off than I actually work! Guess I can’t complain too much…

       I have just been enjoying Sevilla for the time that I have had off.  I was looking into doing a little trip but I decided to just save my money for next weekend.  My friend from college, Whitney, is coming to visit for two weeks and we are taking a trip to Lagos, Portugal! It is a gorgeous beach town, all of my friends have gone and say it’s the most beautiful place.  So I am looking forward to that!
     The weather in Sevilla has been significantly warmer this week.  The weird thing is that it stays hotter a lot later here.  For example: it is 7:45 pm and according to my computer it says that it is currently 97 degrees.  I am sitting on my balcony and am almost sweating! The crazy thing is that the people here are still wearing pants, long sleeve shirts, and some are even wearing jackets.  I don’t think they understand the concept of heat here.  If this was the weather at home we would be barely wearing any clothes!  It was funny because there are two girls staying at our house.  One is a friend of Shayla’s and she has been in Sevilla for 3 months now and her friend just got here.  They were going out to dinner last night and her friend put on a small tank top that showed her stomach.  And the girl that studied here said “ Tori, there is no way you are wearing that to dinner, people here are in jeans right now!”.  Tori was confused and was like “ what, it is hot out, I don’t understand?”.  The people here dress for the season, not the temperature… they think it’s still Spring so they will wear spring clothes.  Some things I will just never understand… haha

So, enough chit- chat.  Now about my trip to Ireland!  My trip was AMAZING! I almost wanted to cry in the airport because I did not want to leave.  There was so  much more I wanted to see but wasn’t able to because I had limited time.  I NEED to go back there at some point of my life and visit the other places I didn’t get to see and maybe even revisit the places I did see J

     We flew into Dublin and spent the first two nights there.  Dublin was a beautiful city!  It had a fun night life with a lot of pubs and more of a city feel to it.  Dublin was great but if you are looking for the green fields and scenic views you shouldn’t go to Dublin.  Lauren and I got a tour of Trinity college and we saw the book of Kels in the Trinity Library.  The library was absolutely gorgeous!  Grandma would have loved seeing this library , it had rows of bookshelves that were at least 30 ft tall in a huge room.  It was great, I wish I could have taken pictures!   We saw the Guinness brewery of course.  It was neat! It reminded me a lot of the Heineken brewery.  At the end of the tour it leads you to the “Galaxy bar” where you can enjoy a beer.  The bar is on the top floor of the brewery and it has windows all around so you have a nice view of Dubin.  At the bar we ran into the 5 other girls from our program that went to Dublin as well.   We ended up getting dinner with them and a restaurant in the center of town.  At this pub we were sitting at a table that was low to the ground and I went to go lean back in my chair and a waiter (accidently) smacked me in the back of the head with a plate that he was carrying.  Not gonna lie, it REALLY hurt!  Usually I try to endure pain as much as I can but this pain I couldn’t hide.  He came over and said that he was sorry and then 5 minutes later he came back with a shot of Jameson.  He said “  The only thing that can cure that is this shot.” Soo I took his word and I took the shot.  It didn’t really cure much because my head still hurt a few days afterwards but it was a nice thought J.

      One weird thing about Ireland is that all of the clothing stores close around 6pm.  We never made it to any stores ( which is probably for the better) but by the time we got done with our sightseeing everything was closed! So odd!

Our first Guinness! 
Shepards pie!
Guinness stew and mashed potatoes

In front of Trinity College

Bridget and I with my free shot!
My favorite part of the trip by far was when Lauren and I made our way to Galway.  It was about a 2.5 hour bus ride from Dublin to Galway.  We actually ended up running into two other teachers that I knew from my orientation on the bus.  They were going to Galway to catch a bus to go see the cliffs of Moher.  They missed the bus in Dublin and were told to go to Galway in order to catch a tour.  When we got to Galway we found out that there is only one trip that goes to the cliffs which was at 10:30am.  They had missed the bus and were not happy! We went to a tourist office nearby the bus station and we met the nicest man.  He was busy working and he offered to take us on a private tour in his car.  This is the perfect example of how the people in Ireland are so friendly and willing to help.  I feel like if this were to happen anywhere else this would not have happened.  So he stopped working, got his things together,  and we left for the cliffs of Moher! This was the best case scenario because we were able to talk to the guide and ask him any questions we had.  He stopped at various points throughout the trip so that we could snap pictures and visit a few castles.  It was the neatest thing!  Everything in Ireland is just green and beautiful.  It has so much natural beauty it is unreal.
Cliffs of Moher!
I won't go into much detail on how close we were to the edge and how windy it was that day :) Love you mom and dad!

Lauren, Hannah, Christina, and I at the cliffs!

Some more pics of the Cliffs... If you want to see more check my Facebook album, I took tons!

Probably one of the most beautiful places i've ever seen!... See for yourself :)

Some interesting things I learned/saw on the tour:

      1. On the way to the cliffs we went through this little town called Lisdoonvarna.  Our guide explained that  this is town  is always crowded near the end of September to early October because there is a match making festival that takes place there.  People come from all over the country to go to this town In hopes to find a lover. Thought that was interesting!

       2.We stopped at a fountain that has the myth of if you wash your hands and don’t dry them, you will be pregnant in a month! None of us touched the fountain… 

Ice Age rocks
      3. We went past an area with a bunch of rocks that were split apart and it happened because of the Ice age and the rocks just never formed back together.

     4.    The first St. Paddy’s day was in Boston.  And it became so big there and other cities in the states that the celebration than came over to Ireland.  I found that to be interesting!

     5.  There is a race at the end of June called the Valcorcia Race.  This is a 9 month ship race.  They decided to have the finish line be in Galway.  The city is looking forward to hosting the festival in their town!

       6.  This is the Doungora Castle: Sooo beautiful!
Probably one of my favorite pictures I took on the trip

     7.    We drove past a castle that was being rebuilt and were told that a family from New Jersey bought that castle.  They decided to put the common areas such as the kitchen and living room at the top of the castle because it had the most natural light and then the bedrooms would be closer to the bottom.  I never would have thought about that.  I wish that this castle would be on house hunter’s international! I would love to see the inside of it once it is done!
      8.  We stopped and saw the Obrien Castle.

A popular shot in Galway

      9.  We passed an intersection that had this street sign on it.  Our guide stopped and said that this somehow became really popular and you can find it on magnets and postcards at any gift shop.  We thought he was crazy because it is just a street sign, but sure enough,  I found a magnet at the store!  Its crazy how some things become popular…

                        Real Life                                                                                                  Magnet :)

     10.  The Claddagh ring orginated in Galway… and YES I bought a new ring! This design consists of two clasped hands holding a crowned heart, and symbolizes love, friendship and loyalty. Brian bought me one for our 1 year anniversary.  I still wear his everyday but I found a one that is different from the one he gave me and I thought it would be neat to buy one where it originated! Don't mind my chipped nail polish :)

After the tour we made it to our Bed and Breakfast which was so cute! It was nice to have a comfortable bed to sleep in.  In the morning we ate a HUGE irish breakfast it was delicious.  It consisted of eggs, sausages, different types of breads, yogurt, some other things on my plate I didn’t know but were quite tasty ( some sort of pancake thing and something like bacon!). 

The last day of our trip we were going to take a trip to the Aran Islands which are supposed to be beautiful but it would have been a lot of money and the weather was kind of crummy. So we decided to tour Galway on our last day.  We went and visted the cathedral in Galway which was very pretty! We also went to the National University of Ireland AKA” NUIG”.  The campus was BEAUTIFUL!  It made me want to go back to college all over again.  Maybe I’ll look into grad school there… hmmm???

My favorite street in the Latin Quarter! So colorful :)

After we toured the school we decided to get some irish coffee, lemme tell ya, it was STRONG!  We then made our way to a local bar that had live irish music.  We enjoyed a few beers and listened to some irish music for a few hours.  What a nice way to spend the afternoon!  That day the weather was crazy.  One hour it would be sunny and blue skies then the next hour it would be raining or really windy with a lot of clouds.  We heard that is typical in Ireland.

Band in the bar!
Enjoying our last brewski in galway!

A little Special treat.... Here is the Irish band that we listened to at the bar!

That night we made our way to Shannon because that’s where our flight was out of.  That was an interesting adventure.  It started off with two drunk men trying to get on our bus but the driver refused to drive them because they were belligerently drunk.  That gave us a late start on our journey.  Then once we got there we asked how to get to the hotel and we were given the wrong directions. So we had to take another taxi 5 minutes down the road to our hotel.  Oddly enough there was a chineese restaurant in our hotel so we were able to get some food.  Later on there were some drunken men that were running down the hallway.  From what we heard there were two guys that were fighting and were about to call the police.  Let’s just say we didn’t leave our hotel room once while we were there!

This trip was amazing and I cannot wait to go back to Ireland.  I can’t even put into words how much I loved it! You will just have to go and see it for yourself :)

As they would say in Ireland: