Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Last days of school

Today I said my goodbyes to students in Badajoz.  I've worked in this elementary school for the past 8 months on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  My classes consisted of 5th and 6th graders and they've truly been amazing.  I've noticed their levels of English improving and the ones who just love participating are so cute.  I'll never forget them! They didn't even let me walk into the classroom before they bombarded me with cards, gifts, and kisses.  One boy even made a PowerPoint for me!

At first I was very confused "they fence you very well"?? What!? Then I found out that this was just a funny translation.  She meant to say "Que te vaya bien" which means something like I hope it's well for you/good luck with everything. Instead, she spelled "vaya" into her translator as "valla" which means FENCE! hahahaha so cute.  Kids often mistake the y for ll because they can sound the same, the same with the letters "b" and "v'" in Spanish.
I made sure they all knew from the start that I am American and nottttt British! I still would get questions regarding "Inglaterra" which is not my country :) You will notice that they like drawing the American flag
"Bye" Samy :)

The 5th grade science class- The one in the bottom left hand corner is Sergio (the one who made my powerpoint)
This card made me laugh. Our last unit in science was about the Neolithic and Paleolithic periods- I hope they forever remember me when they think about nomads ;)

Isn't this all too cute? I have a huge stack of cards put only took pictures of some of them.  I also said goodbye to my two girls who I give private lessons to every Monday and Wednesday.  (Elsa and Gadea) Even though they got a little rowdy at times, they really are sweet girls. 
I gave them lollipops and they gave me chocolate and earrings :)
Meanwhile, I've been cleaning and packing up my room.  Thursday and Friday are my last days at my other school and Tara and I leave our apartment for good on Sunday afternoon.  Our 3 week trip begins! I've never packed a backpack for three weeks of straight travel, this should be interesting.  First stops are Madrid, then Logrono, Bilbao, and San Sebastian.  For the first time ever, Tara and I are trying to relax and have the "go with it" attitude of traveling.  We will decide what we want to do depending on the people we meet along the way.  We will be using the rideshare website and also meet up with some couchsurfers throughout the three weeks.  It's not that we are broke and don't want to spend on hostels, it's just that a lot of people have great experiences using couch surfing and it's a great way to get to know this part of Spain. I won't be taking my computer with me while I travel but I will continue taking notes and pictures so I can write when I'm back home :)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rollercoaster of emotions

Last night my friends and I all celebrated our time spent in Badajoz with a great dinner and after party. It was so nice to get together and look back on our time together. We've gotten to know each other very well and I will remember these people forever.  One of my friends, John, put together an amazing slide show of all of us.  Just when I thought I was so ready to come back home- something like this is pulling at me and making me soak up every last minute here.  Today, I'm going to a lunch with Loly (my tutor) and her family.  This family took me in when I first arrived to Spain, they supported me, helped me, and followed my entire journey while I was here.  I'm familiar with this whole goodbye process for I've done it too many times. I've realized that saying goodbye means that I've done something new and beautiful that has changed me for the better.  I'm addicted to Pinterest- so I've stumbled upon quotes and pictures that I feel really express how I'm feeling and how I think I will feel once I get back home.  I'll just let them speak for themselves :)


On to my last week! 4 days of school left, 100 goodbye besos will be had this week (saying goodbye to Spaniards = lots of kisses on the cheek), packing, planning my trip up north, and enjoying every last second of Spain!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Festivals in May

I've stopped writing as much lately.  For a few reasons; less vacation time, homesickness, and after 8 months the novelty has worn off a good bit. It's May 21st and I'm sitting here wondering what happened to all this time!  Even though it has been passing more slowly, I have done a couple things lately (that aren't as cool as sea diving) but worth sharing.

May 1st was a national holiday honoring the workers of Spain- so why not celebrate our hard work by...not working and going to a cheese festival. A few of my teacher friends and I went to a nice city called Trujillo (about 2 hours away from Badajoz). Trujillo is a Spanish city of 9860 inhabitants and is famous for its monuments and its annual festival- of queso :) The main square transformed into a mini cheese village, made up of 100's stands displaying the finest local and national cheeses. "Competition amongst the stalls is fierce and prizes are given for best annual cheese winner".

Did you know that Spain is the fourth biggest consumer of cheese behind France, Switzerland and Italy ? Here are my tickets. Each sample of cheese was .50 cents.
Samples of cheese with sweet jelly on top. 
Some of the cheese were delicious and others were overwhelming. 
Tara enjoying her bite of cheese!
I read up on the festival before writing this post.  I went to this website (click here) to read about the typical cheeses that I sampled.  Below are the most popular selections;

Manchego cheese - Spain's most famous cheese and often heralded as Don Quixote’s personal favourite. Made from La Mancha sheep’s’ milk, it is famed for a rich flavour and beautiful texture.
La Serena Cheese
Ibores cheese - A fantastic local delicacy made in Trujillo and the Extremadura region. Queso ibores has been given PDO protection signalling its quality and uniqueness. Favoured for its smooth texture and creamy taste, this goat’s cheese is a delicious accompaniment with a refreshing beer or crisp white wine.

La Serena cheese - Queso de la serena is a delectable cheese made from sheep’s milk. One of the local
Trujillo cheeses also awarded the PDO; the cheese is curdled with a coagulant found in the pistils of artichoke giving it a light bitterness that compliments the cheese’s naturally slightly salty taste. Traditionally, La Serena cheese is eaten by slicing off the top and eating the inside with a spoon.

Torta del Casar - This delicious Extremadura cheese is named after Casar de Caceres - the city of its origin. Unlike La Serena which uses artichokes, Torta del Casar uses a coagulant found in the pistils of cardoon - a local wild thistle. The cheese was given PDO status in 1999 and is famous for its production process - it takes the milk of 20 sheep to make a single 2.2 lb wheel of cheese. Similar to La Serena, this cheese can be eaten with a spoon and is great for families
A view of Trujillo
A type of cheesecake
The cheese festival was fun and delicious.  A lot of the English Auxiliares ended up going to this festival (from looks of my facebook feed) because it was near by and a nice way to try all the typical cheeses.  The guests of honor this year was the country of France, which I tried of course- pretty delicious.

The following weekend there was a festival in Badajoz called "Los Palomos".  This festival was in revenge of the mayor who made a "not so popular" comment about the gay community in Badajoz.  He pretty much stated that Badajoz didn't have any "gays" in which he used the term "palomo" which means dove.  Long story short, the city gets together to celebrate- pretty much to prove that yes, within Spain exists a gay community. My friends and I went out to party at the festival- it was pretty much just another weekend in Badajoz with a little more color :)
The streets were filled with rainbow décor, the symbols of doves, and free popcorn (palomitas in Spanish)
Myself with Meredith (Texas), Daron (Oregon), and Tara (Canada)
We scored a sign :)

The next big event was Tara's birthday on May 10th.  She rented out a super cute apartment in Caceres (the city where this journey all began 8 months ago! Caceres was the city where we all had our first orientation together) The main attraction was the WOMAD.  WOMAD is a music festival that has guest performances from countries all over the world. On their website, the writers post that "WOMAD, World of Music, Arts and Dance, is an internationally established Festival bringing together artists from all over the globe. WOMAD continues to present music that we feel to be of excellence, passion and individuality, regardless of musical genre or geographical origin, to thousands of festival goers everywhere." So there you have it! We spend a nice weekend together enjoying beautiful weather, street food, good friends, and amazing music. Of course not to forget Tara's big 24!
The main stage (p.s. this event was entirely free!)
Tara and Kate relaxing on the rooftop

My favorite ladies!

This weekend will be our last big weekend spent together in Badajoz.  Our friends are throwing a goodbye party to celebrate the past year spent together.  I'm very lucky to have met such awesome people not only in Badajoz but the surrounding area.  I might even start packing this weekend! Scary.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Diving in Tenerife..the proof!

I'm still pretty proud of myself for the whole diving excursion I did a month ago and I just now got the photos back from the guide.  They're not the most professional but they are still pretty good!  It feels like we went to the Canary Islands ages ago. 

I saw one giant sea turtle while I was under the water..he came right for my face and I freaked out instead of touching it
The guide had a hold of me the entire time, controlling my oxygen and steering me around
Tara getting ready (the guide on the right)
The preparation before diving was the most terrifying part! It's hard to get accustomed to the breathing
I was scared of my goggles falling off (I have contacts) so I was holding on to them the whole time..we also had to pop our ears the further down we got
ready to go!
Popping my ears
The oxygen tank + the suit = super heavy! the suits were already wet before we put them on...not the most comfortable feeling but this doesn't happen very often now does it

Well there's my proof! I haven't been writing that much because things have been very chill lately. I went to Lisbon (again) last weekend for a nice get-a-way from Badajoz.  This weekend there is a Gay Festival in town that we're going to. Next weekend is Tara's birthday weekend and we'll be going to Caceres to a music festival.  We've rented out an apartment and there will be 12 or so of us English teachers all staying together.  My last official day of teaching is May 31 (soon!).  Tara and I originally had plans of flying to Greece for our three weeks of travel but we've changed plans.  Instead we will be headed to the Basque Country up north, the border of France and Spain, and parting ways after we travel around the Mediterranean coast near Barcelona.

It's a weird feeling to have to think about packing up everything I've accumulated in the past 8 months.  I'm thankful to myself for having written this blog because honestly it's a little hard to process everything right now.  I have a mixture of emotions; I'm super happy with my experiences abroad yet I'm very excited for the next chapter in Louisiana.  As time passes, I've realized I'm definitely ready to settle down, see my family and friends, and believe it or not..find a job! I thought that this adventure in Spain would relax me and realize work isn't everything but I've come to find out I get a lot of satisfaction from working my butt off.  Maybe I won't be as crazy as I was in college, working two jobs with a full class schedule...but I'd really like to start figuring out what I want out of a career.

4 full weeks left in my apartment
16 days left of teaching
7 weeks until I touch down in America
221 days spent living abroad so far- 221!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Plane ticket home..check!

Where did time go?!
Kyle recently asked me "what do you want/want to do when you get home"?  What don't I want to do!?
This picture makes me think of two basset hound and the joy I'll feel after driving my car again

  • Drive my car wherever and whenever I want- no relying on public buses or carpools
  • Go out to dinner at a full service restaurant- I miss having that type of environment.  Spain is full of cafes and tapa places
  • Socialize with Americans- I miss their sense of humor, accents, attitudes, and intonation.
  • Shop at Target!!
  • Go grocery shopping- I enjoy this way too much.
  • Watch the 4th of July fireworks and see my high school friends/family
  • Find an apartment and settle down for a while
  • Earn more than 700 euros a month ;)
  • Bake and cook in my own kitchen
  • DRY MY CLOTHES! It sounds silly but we're spoiled with those drying machines
  • Eat Mexican food
  • Be with Mom in New Orleans
  • Go on a trip with Kyle
  • Go to the movie theatre- I haven't been once over here!
  • Watch T.V. for hours on end- (I never watch T.V. here and Big Brother will be on this summer!)
  • See my nephew, Harper
The perfect example of what I miss about American humor..SNL

Kelly and I with Harp last July

I thought I'd miss more things when it came to food once I left the states but I've really been fine.  They all say "peanut butter" is the missing factor when you live abroad but that's not true, I've been able to buy it here.  Another bad habit of mine is ranch dressing, I'm happy to say I've survived without it.  Spain has amazing olive oil and I've been addicted to making my own dressings with it. 
America's obsession

I'm trying my best to live in the present and plan some more trips for June but I can't help thinking about how I'll feel when I get home.  It's been on my mind constantly, I'm thinking it's because Kyle just left.  I also don't have any more big trips planned for the month of April or May.  Let's face it, I'm not here because I enjoy the teaching...I'm here to travel and learn about the language/people..howeeeverrr, sometimes I feel like I've had enough, sometimes I want them to just stop speaking Spanish, or sometimes I just don't want to immerse myself in anything. It's not anything negative they've done, it's just my personality to need my own space every once in a while (hello, only child).  Most of my friends just received the news that they've been accepted to come back to Spain next year.  I'm very happy for them and will keep in touch but I'm also happy with my decision to come home :)

'MERICA...See you on June 25th :) For now, here's to my last few months of an amazing experience!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Albufeira and Lagos

Albufeira is a city in southern Portugal, about a three hour train ride from Lisbon. It is a main tourist destination, due to its coastal location. The city has a population of 22,000, a touristy "new strip", an "old town", and many beaches.  Our weather wasn't suitable for swimming but with a light jacket it was nice in the sunshine.  Our hotel was close to the newer part of town, which we didn't care for.  It was overrun by strange British people and bars/discos. We didn't go out to any of the bars or restaurants in Albufeira, not one.  We did however, eat a LOT of kebabs.  I've had a kebab before because they are all over Spain and extremely delicious.  My mom also loved the kebabs she ate in Sevilla and Granada.  Once I introduced Kyle to one...there was no going back! That's all he craved from then on. 
This is a kebab. They're huge, stuffed with veggies, chicken, garlic yogurt sauce and wrapped in pita bread

"A Turkish dish made of meat cooked on a vertical spit, normally veal or beef but also a mixture of these with lamb; a cheaper version of chicken is also found. The dish is also widely known by its Arabic name, shawarma, or in Greek as gyro".

Falesia Beach

Boats and fish = Kyle's happy place

 Since all we did was eat kebabs and walk around in Albufeira, we decided to catch a bus to another southern city in Portugal, Lagos.  Although it was only 20 or 30 kilometers away, it took longer to get there because we made a lot of stops along the way.  We quickly realized that Lagos was less touristy and more beautiful and went back again the following day.  All of the following pictures are of us in Lagos. We walked along the top of the cliffs to reach the famous point of Ponta da Piedade, ate lunch in Praia Dona Ana, visited a museum, the marina, and took lots of pictures (of course).

These are the most popular places to visit in Lagos according to tripadvisor

Lagos has a lot of caves and grottos
Yup thats me up there

Our last night in Albufeira just after sunset
The Saturday before Kyle left, we checked out of the hotel and headed back up to Lisbon for the night.  His flight left around noon so we stayed in a hotel near the airport.  We had a nice night and ate at a Brazilian restaurant similar to Texas de Brazil.  Sunday morning was just plain awful and sad :(  I had to get on my bus to leave him at 9am and he stayed behind waiting for his flight.  We had a great time together- the time went quickly! Now I'm looking forward to relaxing and enjoying my last two months in Spain before I'm off to travel again in June.  The day Kyle left, I booked my ticket home to the states.  June 25th will be the day! Exactly 9 months to the date of when I left :)