and this is...


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Better Late...: Bilbao, San Ascencio, Halloween...just stuff you missed

So I am totally behind on updating my blog…I know, I know…I suck. But, to be fair, if I were typing all of the time, would you even believe me when I said that I am having a good time?

I will pause there to say that homesickness is, in fact, real. No matter how good of a time you have traveling, there is a definite hole that begins to form and grow in your chest when you are on the opposite side of the world from all that you know and love for an extended period of time. I will not dwell on this or go into monotonous sappy detail. However, for future folks in this situation looking at this blog for advice and an idea of what’s to come (like I did with other blogs last year) I felt it would be a disservice to not honestly disclose that sentiment.

Moving right along…

A few weeks ago (told ya I suck) I made a lovely trip to Bilbao with a lovely group of girls and we had a lovely time eating lovely food and seeing lovely sites.  We visited the Guggenheim and the Basque History Museum, we watched a beautiful impromptu violin concert in the street that brought us to tears, we walked through the most picturesque plazas and squares, rode the cleanest subway system on the planet, and ate food that tasted like art.

There really aren’t very many words that can describe how much I loved this city and I hear tell that pictures are worth a thousand so I shall let a few photos do the talking…
Even on a rainy was beautiful... 
I really appreciate Spain for automatically cooking steak medium -rare.

He was really incredible...I'm sure he must be an actual professional moonlighting for fun

Nicer than American water fountains...but I'm just as scared to drink from them

The Guggenheim

A river runs through it...

Everything worth seeing was me on this! Very strange art...

There were actually white balls in the bottom that looked like spider eggs

I could live in this bar...

Pan seared pork with a curry dijon sauce

Spinach and Potato Mousse...yum!

Delicious ceviche

Cod fish with fruit and and veggies

German Dinner: BEFORE 
German Dinner: AFTER
(One day I will learn how to bunch my photos and not present them all in a day...but not today...)

If you are ever in Bilbao you MUST check out these restaurants…some of the BEST food I have ever had…and that is saying something…. I’m Southern….

It was exactly the type of vacation that I was in need of…really relaxing, cultural and consistent stuffing of my face with delicious goodness. I spent several hours in a food coma and it was fantastic. It was, in short....LOVELY!!!

Oh, and we also had Halloween here, of course… we didn’t do much, as Logrono is sorely lacking in the Halloween spirit. But we did dress up and go out to confuse passing Spaniards and have a drink before calling it a night. I went as Medusa!

Another quick item that was crossed off of my bucket list recently: Grape Stomping!!! We went on a quick day trip to the nearby town of San Ascencio where a local bodega was hosting a wine event. We were able to tour an underground wine cellar, taste some of the best wine on earth, eat some of the best chorizo I have ever had and of course smush our toesies into some grapes…note for future stompers: Get a pedicure first. You will be judged for chipped polish. I learned the hard way.

(I wanted to include some pics from San Acencio--there were plenty--but my comp is just not having it today! Sorry)

So I believe you are all caught up on my shenanigans…

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and we are planning a big AmeriBrit dinner (I’m trying to convince the Brits to dress as pilgrims…this feels appropriate to me). And we possibly may head into another nearby town for a night to stave off any residual holiday blues…

What is on your bucket list? Where did you have the best meal of your life? Please share, for every one thing I cross off of my bucket list, I want to add more…keeps the heart pumping and whatnot…

¡Hasta Pronto!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Feeling the Thrill Across the Pond: Obama!!!!!

It is a very unique experience to be on the other side of the world, knowing that the very landscape of the home you left behind is going through the most major shift of your lifetime.

I have not been immune to the propaganda and mudslinging just because I have been transplanted. In fact, it was quite a heady thing to realize how much the people of the world, not just citizens of the USA, have been waiting with baited breath to find out the results of this 2012 election process.

Of course, I was rooting for Obama, again...I believe in him and his vision, I believe that it takes a country to move a country and I generally shy away from the "every man for himself" mentality. I am always confused by the push for Christian morals on politics while those very "Christians" eschew any and all responsibility to care for and uplift their fellow  Christ did? ((I would not normally shove my ideas down anyone's throat but's MY blog! lol))


The race is over and we can steer away from these controversial topics once again and focus on such important matters as whether or not Kanye and Kim will make it last and how I will see the final Twilight Saga movie without having to suffer through awful Spanish dubbing.

I stayed up as long as I could (dozed off about an hour before he was announced--cut me some slack, that was around 5am my time) and woke up to great news!!

I, of course, then accidentally slept through work and have spent the remainder of my week paying for it by making up the time on my days off... One of the teachers tried to give me crap about it but I was quite unapologetic. I always admire Spain's involvement in their government and there have been 2 strikes in the past month. So, I felt no shame in missing a day in support of my nation...

I must say that I am thoroughly enjoying all of the congratulations that I have been receiving...Yes, dear Spaniards, I also believe that this was all my doing and that I am now about to lead America as Obama's right hand woman...yes, indeed!

Barack is Back!!! Photo Credit: Getty Images

Saturday, October 20, 2012

One Night in Zaragoza: Fire, Brimstone, and a Bus Station

The plan was simple.

A group of 12 friends would get together and spend one amazing night in Zaragoza for the Fiesta del Pilar. Great! Sure we didn’t have a place to stay. Sure we would be there for 27 hours straight. Sure our funds were limited. But hey, the intention was to party non-stop and have the time of our lives with a great story to tell afterwards. What could possibly go wrong with this plan?

Yeah. Everything.

The trip started out well enough. We packed our book bags with sheets and enough liquor to get an elephant drunk and headed off to the Logroño bus station at 9am on a Saturday morning. We made sure that we all got our tickets and ended up on the same bus and headed off to, what we thought, would be a great time.

We arrived in Zaragoza at about 1pm. We saw some great sites. Beautiful architecture. Interesting alters for Pilar. Spiritual parades.

The alter in the middle of the plaza.

When we first got to the city, we were a bit confused. We couldn’t figure out where all of the infamous crowds were and had to find our way to the tourist office to get maps and directions. We did manage to make it to the main plaza and saw this huge live flower alter made to honor the Virgin Pilar (I’m not positive, but I have been made to understand that all of these virgins are merely variations of the Virgin Mary…I should research this more but let’s be honest, we were only there for the parties).

Now this is where the story takes a turn….

Fae (she shall be called because I consider her to be a Scottish fairy) thought this would be a GREAT time to start making jokes and calling into question the validity of Mary’s virgin status. And thus began the smiting. From that moment forward, anyone that chose to remain in Fae’s company was met with God’s wrath and sense of humor.

We actually managed to capture the smiting on film.

We left the plaza and went to lay around in a nice local park for a bit. I would hate for you to believe that we seek out these sorts of tranquil settings for their aesthetic value. In fact, I couldn’t tell you what that park looked like now to save my life. We had one purpose, and one purpose only. To get wasted. We quickly spread out our sheets on the grass and got to the bottle poppin’ portion of the program. And boy did we pop bottles! We all quickly found ourselves in a drunken haze and only abandoned our tipsy retreat when we were, suddenly, overrun by even more drunken 12 year olds (no, you didn’t read that incorrectly- they were in fact 12...14 at best).

The aforementioned drunk children taking over the park

We ran to the nearest city bus and then proceeded to head in the direction of what we thought was the Oktoberfest event. Wrong! Clearly our communication was already taking a turn for the worse because we were, in fact, headed to another grand tent party. No big deal.

Half way through the bus ride, my roommate, S, was overtaken by her blood alcohol level and looked to be on the verge of vomming on the bus. The Spanish clearly do NOT play that! The bus driver made an impromptu stop and several riders shoved helped her off the bus. Luckily, before the doors fully closed Sweet P jumped off the bus to help her out. The last image I had of them that evening was S waving sadly as the bus pulled away and she resumed retching. And then there were 10. (Smite #1)

We made it to the tent shindig and ran through the line (they made us throw out our remaining liquids, which included my Redbull that I planned to help me stay awake). But this was okay because we were pumped and ready to start the party!

After getting through security with our lightened loads we were quickly informed that we had gotten into the wrong line and needed to go around the block to the line for people without a prepaid party pass. (Smite #2) We were sad to have wasted our drinks but headed off with faces stretched with smiles anyhow. Silly us! The line that we were supposed to get into stretched for about a mile and a half -and this was by no means a single-filed line. (Smite #3) We decided to give it a go regardless. I mean, really, why the hell not? Where else were we going to go?

After 2 hours and only ¾ mile progress, I grew delirious, restless, and worst of all…sober. Luckily, I wasn’t alone in this feeling. Unluckily, I was not alone in this feeling. The line was completely still. Due to a strong wave of delirium and the cold night that was steadily settling into my bones, I decided to rally the troops and vehemently insist suggest that we find a bar. RG-1 was busy macking it to a scarecrow and a few other people in our gang seemed to have been frozen to their spots. The rest of us were ready to move on to greener pastures but, of course, we couldn’t just bow out gracefully and walk away. We left with a bang! Cursing, calling the other people morons, berating them about every ill decision that they had ever made in their miserable existences and stormed off. (Ok, it wasn’t THAT dramatic, but the aftermath was equally embarrassing). And then there were 6.

We stomped off in search of a bus and finally found one that said it was heading back into town. As we drove past our friends in line we quickly realized that we had actually been only moments away from entering the party. However, our pride just wouldn’t let us go slinking back. (Smite #4)

Eventually the bus pulled up to the curb and the driver yelled out that it was the last stop and told us all to get off… We had absolutely no idea where we were. And even better, there was not an open bar in sight. (Smite #5)

At this point, the night had grown colder and we had all grown more bone weary. We found a café and ordered some hamburgers (something my stomach still has not forgiven me for) and C. Beezy went off in search of possible hotels. That turned out to just be a late night stroll because it turned up no results. (Smite #6) Not for most of us anyway. One hotel was way over priced and quickly vetoed by the group at large. However, one of the group…let’s call him “The Deserter”…decided that he would prefer to cough up the cash and snuggle up on his own in the available room. To be “fair” he said one of us could split the tab with him. We decided to stay together and off he went into the night with nothing but a t-shirt and a night of restful sleep ahead of him. And then there were 5.

We roamed aimlessly for a while longer hoping against hope that a hotel room would become available to us. It never did. Also, the irony of the evening was not lost on me. Fae just HAD to insult the Virgin Mother and now we were doomed to wander the streets unable to find any room at an inn. Thanks, Fae! (Smite #7)

Finally we decided to just head back to the bus station where there would at least be shelter and the possibility of sleep. Please note that by this time it was nearly 3:30am.

On our way to the bus station, I noticed a group of revelers headed in our direction. They were pretty drunk and rowdy and had already made some disparaging remarks to a few of the people in our group ahead of me. As they past me, the guy at the end began to stare at me strangely. I gave him my best Miami girl “What the hell are you looking at?” face and kept walking. He decided he wasn’t through with me yet and suddenly grabbed my arm with enough force that my free hand began to become a fist. He then yanked me toward him, saying something in Drunk, and palmed my butt with all the force he could muster before sprinting away. I, being of sound mind and Dade County spirit, immediately swung for his face. He managed to dodge my hit and went running off leaving me screaming like an insane banshee in the middle of the street. I was with a less…reactive…group than I am accustomed to so they were all for brushing off the moment and continuing on to the bus station. I continued to seethe and stomp around like a petulant 5 year-old for the next hour of our walk. (Smite #8-10)

We finally got to the bus station and apparently stumbled into homeless heaven. I know how insensitive that sounds, but truly there were people sleeping everywhere, travelers and vagabonds alike. We quickly found an available corner, spread our sheets, and tried to get down to the business of trying to catch some zzz’s on freezing cold tiles.

After some readjusting and group spooning, we were finally on our way to sleep (Geordie was getting suspiciously close to a homeless man). We actually managed to squeeze in about 30 minutes of sleep though.

Then came the Doppelgangers. A group of Brits with the same names as a few of our British group members and their very own Scottish girl that sounded rather like Fae entered the bus station and shushed each other because of all of the people around them trying to sleep. I guess they didn’t take their own request seriously because they promptly began to yell at the top of their lungs. Somewhere in the night, I completely lost my mind and began yelling “Literally! Shut the hell up!” from my floor bed. (Smite #11)

They eventually tired themselves out and went to sleep and thus we were allowed to pass out as well. As soon as we settled into slumber, the lights came on and two Spanish police came in yelling that everyone had to wake up. New rules: If you were homeless you had to leave. If you had a ticket you could stay but you had to sit up. They had a respectable business to run. (Smite #12)

At this point, we were all at that lovely place where laughter is nothing more than a mask for tears. We were so tired that were near to hallucinating and everything felt surreal.

And because Fae just doesn’t know when to quit, she chose that moment to look up to the sky and say “Really God, what more can you do to us.”

His answer: Just watch.

Enter: The Spanish girl that needed her phone charged. We were sitting directly over the power outlets. We told her sure, go for it. She plugged in and sat unusually close to us. She tried calling someone a few times and when this failed apparently, broke out into loud sobbing. At this point the night had just gotten too ridiculous and I couldn’t hold myself together anymore. I burst out laughing right in the girl’s face. I couldn’t control myself. To be more polite, I swiftly ran to the closest bathroom to get the laughing/tears out of my system. (Smite #13)

She soon fell asleep right next to us (with her eyes creepily cracked open the whole time) and we started to settle back into our sleep as well. An hour or so later, without warning, the sobbing disaster woke and ran off leaving her charger behind. She did collect some souvenirs before departing: C. Beezy’s face wipes and Granny Rose’s water. The whole encounter was more than a little odd. (Smite #14)

She was very serious about her phone

Finally the light of day arrived and with it came back all of the lost members of our tribe. First the partygoers trickled into the bus station touting stories of a fantastic night (of course). Then S and Sweet P showed up. Turns out they also spent the evening in the bus station but they managed to find a warm, quiet area to sleep in and had a completely restful night. Last came “The Deserter”. He shared with the partygoers the tale of his fabulous sleep. Fae and I gave him the look of death, to which he responded with “I was really worried about you guys”. We… lost… our… minds! I’m pretty sure that at some point our heads began to spin and we started spewing green pea soup like a scene out of the Exorcist.

After several more hours in the bus station our bus home finally arrived. Fae was smited yet again. This time by some guy that was very serious about sitting in his exact seat number leaving Fae pinned into a corner window for the entire duration of the ride home. (Smite #15)

We arrived later that afternoon in Logroño to a lovely walk home through the rain. (Smite #16)

This was definitely one of those trips that were only fun in hindsight. And while Zaragoza may never see my face again, it was definitely a memorable trip that has laid some awesomely hilarious foundations of friendship here in Spain.

Have you ever had insane trip that you will never forget and never repeat? Ever made any spontaneous roadtrips with serious backlash? Ever slept in a bus station? Do share!

¡Hasta Pronto!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

First Impressions: PART TWO—Culture Shock

So, immediately after A (henceforth referred to as RG1—don’t ask…that was his creation) snagged us from the bus station, we dragged my massive load of luggage to our apartment (thankfully only 5 blocks away…less thankfully in the rain).

We dumped our stuff, toured our place (which is awesome!!!), sat for a few minutes and then prepared to head off!

A glimpse of our lovely living room
A very inaccurate look at my room...things have been moved around and completely redecorated...

We have already begun putting this room to good use.

Culture Shock 1: Hundreds of angry Africans. There is a rather large population of African immigrants here and many, not all, have taken to street vending here in Logroño. Some of the things that they sell are actually rather nice. However, their marketing pitch leaves a lot to be desired. Cut to: African woman essentially wrist raping me with a bracelet that she was insistent that I buy. I begged her repeatedly not to put it on me (My body, my choice!) but she was not having it... She then told me the price expecting me to just hand it over. I, of course, still said no, to which she painfully ripped it off of my arm and proceeded to call me everything BUT a child of God under her breath. Ummm…l’chaim to you too, ma’am!!!

We decided to go try some pintxos (Northern Spain’s version of tapas) and lots and lots of wine. Pretty chill evening because we definitely needed to unwind after that whirlwind trip.

Oh yummy I love thee!!!

The next few days and nights became a whirlwind of parties and festival processions thanks to San Mateo. Man, these people go hard!!! I mean really, there was nothing in my sad little American experience (see: lots of tailgating and frat house keggers) that could have adequately prepped me for how intensely these Spaniards can party. To give you a small idea, let me explain that clubs in this city do not OPEN until 2am. The temptation to just sleep in the street was immensely strong.

Free midnight concert so that people can pre-game before the clubs open

Its 3am...let's just dance it out!

Culture Shock 2: Pee-Pee Cobblestone. Sleeping on the streets here would probably be the easiest way to instantly contract herpaganasypholitis. I’m pretty sure at this point that these beautiful cobblestone roads are paved with dried pee. Really, after a long night of partying it is perfectly normal for people to just whip it out and get to releasing. And while the mental picture that first leapt into your head was more than likely that of a drunken frat boy, and this was the overwhelming majority, you should now stretch your imagination to include ladies in hot heels and skimpy dresses popping a squat in a side alley. Should we at least find a car or trashcan to duck behind? Nah! Just do it where you feel it, I suppose! (This part of immersion I think I’ll pass on)

On Saturday night, we, the oldies but goodies of the group, decided to pretend that we were 22 again and attempt to party until dawn. There was face slapping (not my face), drunken stumbling, pregnant women smoking (no worries, she was the recipient of many sneers and nasty commentary, shaming her into putting out the cigarette) and me trying unsuccessfully to tell a Moroccan man that only spoke French, I believe, in Spanish that I thought he had beautiful teeth. Good times!

With RG-1 and Estrella (our resident Italian)

There was a massive tent set up in one of the town squares where all the youngins had flocked to get down with their bad selves (showing my emotional age for this venture). This is where I learned the joy and curse of black Vodka.  Now before, the vodka I was merely pi-di-pi (I’m sure I spelled that horribly wrong but that is what the Spaniards here call tipsy) but I soon hit barracha status with force. My memories of this evening now flicker in my mind like some old TV with foil-covered antennae. There was just so much to see and take in and the major amount of weed smoke being blown into my face all night surely has helped to cloud this evening further.

No level of barracha could make this a good idea...
(Written on the inside of the tent)

Culture Shock #3: Mullets!!! Mullets EVERYWHERE!!! I mean, its like no one turned on the televisions back in 1999 to let Spain know that the new millennia had arrived. And it would be bad enough that mullets were accepted, sometimes even admired, here in Spain. However, these people have the downright audacity to have styled mullets. There are curly mullets…spiky mullets…and yes… even DREADLOCK MULLETS!!!! WTF?! What is that supposed to be? Business in the front, Rasta in the back?! Are you kidding me?

There was some nice down time as I settled into the wonderful world of siestas, sat in cafes, went grocery shopping (where are all the microwave dinners and sauces??), watched loads of Jersey Shore (gross but addictive) with RG-1 and M, and set up my room to make it feel all homey and nice. I even managed to successfully navigate laundry in Spain.

Me and M...(or Granny Rose as I like to call her)

Culture Shock #4: Panties on the Line. Now, I knew coming here that I would have to use a clothing line to dry my clothing. I was all mentally prepped for the crunchy jeans and over-stretched sweaters. I somehow, though, managed to never think about hanging my delicates outside the window like flags waving in the wind for all of España to see. I have nearly toppled over the balcony at least three times already trying to hang the heaviest towels I can find on the farthest line so that I can make a shield for my unmentionables. Listen, I have not even met and given dos besos to most of my neighbors yet. So I think it is a bit early for them to be able to describe my underwear in vivid detail.

I went on one really interesting meeting for clases particulares (private tutoring) where I was all by my lonesome with Spaniards for the first time and had to painfully bash my way through a conversation using no English. Luckily, they seemed to understand me pretty well and I think I will have a nice little side income coming in (to be used solely on awesome travel). One woman was attempting to talk me down from my price. Sadly, I was actually on the verge of giving in. Unfortunately for her, her demon lovely daughter chose that exact moment to hurl a bowl at my head. I instantly hit her with the straight face and jacked up my price by 5€ an hour.

So, basically it has been a really incredible, wild, confusing, mis-stepping, wine infused, rollicking good time so far. I’m learning something new everyday and (I would like to believe) I am meeting each new challenge with a smile and salud!

Any challenge becomes fun when you rock your Oompa Loompa tights!!!

Have you every encountered any sort of culture shock? Made any silly mistakes or attempted any ridiculous conversations? Know the correct spelling of pi-di-pi? Please share!!!

Hasta Pronto!!!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

First Impressions: PART ONE

An Italian, a Black, a Jew, a German, some Spaniards, and a Texan walk into a bar…

Yeah. I know that sounds like the beginning of a very complicated, racist, and beyond corny bathroom humor joke. It is in fact a pretty simplified explanation of my nights out on the town thus far here in Logroño.

But we will get back to that. Let’s start at the beginning of my journey across the sea. 

Starting on Monday, September 17, I woke up at about 5am (Keep in mind that my flight was not leaving until 11:15). I was so anxious that I couldn’t even feign sleep anymore like I had been all night.  My three massive suitcases were waiting patiently by the door and I was all too ready to get them rolling.

The Infamous Luggage: I should have known...

We loaded the car and headed out around 8am toward Miami International Airport. My sister and I did our hug/love thing at the curb and I (unaided and looking ridiculous) proceeded in to check myself in for my flight…

Thanks Brandi!!!

Hiccup #1: Of course my damn luggage broke every airline regulation known to man! My largest suitcase weighed in at a whopping 74 lbs!!! No biggie! Only 20 lbs to get rid of as a line of some 20 other irate patient passengers waited to be assisted.  So I tried to shove as much as I could into my carry-on bag and even swallowed my pride and chose a few items that I would toss all together if needed, creating a pile of crap at the ticket counter and looking like a crazy homeless woman in the process. Of course this made my carry-on too wide to qualify and I was promptly informed that it would need to be checked and would require a small fee of $450. So I did what any mature responsible adult would do in this situation…. I immediately began to cry and pray out loud for God to deliver me. LOL. Well, apparently God was on the hotline that morning and took pity on my pathetic self because the lady said nothing and walked to the back room and left me there. She came back with a luggage tag and a BeBe bag. She put the tag onto my carry-on and told me to put my discarded items into the BeBe bag and count it as my carry-on. She them looked me square in the eye, without smiling, and told me to just walk away. So, thank-you, Mr. Jesus for looking out for a sistah…a third checked bag for FREE!!! Lovely!

The flight to DC (in a baby jet- ugh!) went without incident and I even managed to get a nap in.

Once I got to DC, I ran into a few other assistants waiting for the same flight as me to Madrid so we passed the time together eating food, chatting about the year to come, and generally judging getting to know each other.

Our flight to Madrid boarded and left on time, thus allowing us to avoid the notorious United Airlines delays.

Hiccup #2: So I was completely nervous about the idea of flying over open water, as it is not something that I have ever done before. So I came prepared with Unisom with the intention of putting myself into a drug-induced coma until we arrived. Well about an hour or so into the flight it still hadn’t kicked in and I was still nervous so I decided to give it a little nudge… hello, Chardonnay!! Horrible, horrible idea. Yes, I did fall asleep. But then I randomly woke up… and everything fell swiftly down hill from that point. I blacked out. Not fell asleep. But actually had a fainting blackout. From which I awoke drenched in sweat and dizzy/nauseous out of my mind. The lady next to me, who was a bit larger than is comfortable to sit next to for an 8 hr flight, was passed out cold and no matter how much I prodded her, would not wake. And I knew if I didn’t get to the restroom soon this flight was about to suck for everybody. So a decision had to be made. I literally threw myself over her and into the aisle and ran/crawled my way to the closet bathroom. Luckily, I did not throw up but I did sadly sleep for another hour in the bathroom as the meds kicked in again and put me back to sleep unexpectedly. So lesson learned: Unisom and wine are not friends and should never coexist together in your system.

After that debacle, I arrived in Madrid feeling surprisingly rested and ready to get to Logroño. M and I were both heading that way so we joined forces to get our bags through customs and head toward the bus station. We got our phones turned on in the airport and proceeded to the Alsa ticket office.

Hiccup #3: Now, my father came to Madrid with me. However, he was on a separate flight and apparently adverse to following instructions after a “miserable” flight in first-class with bottomless champagne and filet mignon (WTH?! Really? HE gets the free upgrade) ~Love you, Daddy~ Anyhow, we discussed meeting in Terminal 4 at the Alsa bus station BEFORE leaving America. I sent follow up instructions in various emails upon arrival. I couldn’t text him because Sprint decided that it no longer wanted to be of assistance to me abroad. Well, my dad just knew that I would communicate with him via text or calls and never checked his email. He also presumed that I must have had a grand change of plans so never went to our designated meeting place. Cut to: Me waiting with M and B (who was on the same flight as him) for about 3 hours and them leaving on the bus to Logroño without me with my father still nowhere in sight. It took us talking through my sister as a third-party VIA EMAIL for us to connect and for him to finally find me in Terminal 4 at the Alsa station. The next bus didn’t leave for another 5 hours so we buckled in for a nice long wait in the airport lobby and tried to sleep while not getting robbed.

Finally we made it to the city around 7pm after a very picturesque 4 hr bus ride. My roommate, A, met us at the station and we lugged my body bags on to our apartment. Phew!!! What a damn day!!! We rested, showered and hit the streets for the first of some amazing nights!

This story seems a bit endless already so I get to more on all of that in PART TWO. Stay tuned!!

Have you ever embarrassed yourself that many times in one trip? Please share so I don’t feel to insane!

Hasta Pronto!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Lessons in Breathing: Visa in Hand and Apartment Hunt On

So, I finally have my visa in hand (I picked it up on the 27th as scheduled) and now I have exactly 2 weeks before I hop a plane to start my new adventure on the other side of the world.

In the interest of keeping up with how this process truly goes, I feel I must talk about this apartment hunt situation....

((insert heaving sigh here))

So, bright side first: I  have found what I believe are two really awesome roommates that I am genuinely excited about living with. They are both people that are not exactly fresh out of college, so their mindset is a bit closer to mine. You know, ready to party 'til our geriatric bones fall apart but still understanding how to show up for a job and make sure household needs are tended to...So we should be able to kick up some awesome/insane stories together...

Less shiny side: We found a great place that was basically a guaranteed piso for the three of us (a past assistant was moving from her place and offered it out--this is definitely a route that future assistants should try...don't be shy...ask around). There were a few issues with the place, but overall it was basically perfect for us. However, we found another place that seemed as though it would accommodate us a bit better and was in just as nice of an area. We decided to go for it. 

Long story short: The original place was rented out, the new place bailed out from us and decided not to rent the place anymore, we may be living under a bridge in two weeks...

Just kidding, I'm sure we will work it out, but I am sure we will be far more discerning in the future.

Lesson learned: The grass is not greener. In fact it is nothing but crappy 70's plastic carpet grass. Keep the real thing...plants will like you better for it.

So, even as we speak, I am emailing every piso I see advertised anywhere and hopefully soon I will have better news to share.

This hiccup, in the grand scheme of things, is really minor and I realized a while ago that after the glow of excitement wanes and the real process begins, there is bound to be the Murphy's Law phase. I'm there now I guess. I also know that, while trying to move to another country, if I let every setback and upset wind me all up, I will be a crazy person before I even get my first paycheck.

So I am learning to breathe through these moments...maybe this is one of the things I need to learn before coming back to the States anyhow...

Have you attempted to find housing overseas? Any horror stories? 

Wish me luck guys!!

¡Hasta Pronto!

Friday, August 3, 2012

All that for ten minutes?: Visa Appointment

So, after much stress, OCD, and anticipation, I finally went in for my visa appointment on Monday, August 30, 2012. My time slot was slated for 10:45am and I showed up, of course, with over 30 minutes to spare. During this visa process, my organization compulsions knew no bounds. I was the Santa of legal documents. Making lists...checking them twice...or rather a hundred times in most instances. I wanted nothing missing, no stone unturned, no excuse to be denied entrance to this lovely country that I feel so close to that I can practically taste the jamón!

 Now, remember that my appointment was with the dreaded Miami Consulate...(dun dun dunnnn). All of the horror stories and unanswered phone calls/emails prior to this day left me feeling extremely uncertain...scratch that...I was absolutely certain...certain that something was bound to go wrong and screw everything up. However, I must say, regardless of their inability to hold a phone to their ear for a mere second and lend counsel, they were surprisingly adept at efficiency and the entire ordeal took a matter of minutes.

Snuck this photo on the way out lol
I walked in with my handy dandy documents folder where I held each completed and appropriately signed item that they requested in the order that it was listed on their website: (Note: On the Miami Consulate page, under student visa, there is an option to see the requirements for Language Assistants)

When you go into the office, they give you a number to wait in line regardless of your appointment time. Now I'm pretty sure that numbers are not physically different in Spanish, so it will never be clear to me exactly how my number '12' that I was given actually meant '32'. There was a definite moment of confusion when the lady repeatedly called my number (32) and I, being the only one in the waiting room (with the number 12) did not immediately move. Is this the sort of thing I should be getting used to? Did I skip a chapter in my Spanish book that said that in Spanish 1's are in fact 3's? *sigh* Oh well...small hiccup in the grand scheme of things...and a sprinkling of humor on an otherwise stressful morning for me.

Once I realized I was being summoned, I jaunted up to the window...yes, window, there is no desk. I handed over each document as requested to the (insert: stunningly beautiful) woman behind the counter,  gaped at her sat for a moment while she reviewed my information, stamped some things, made  additional copies of things (although I had like four of everything), and shuffled some things around.

She walked to the back of the office, came back, flashed a gorgeous smile (I promise to stop gushing now) and handed me back my application, photo firmly attached, with a flimsy receipt on it that proclaimed (in the faintest of blue ink as to be nearly illegible) that my visa would be ready for pick up on August 27, 2012.

So voila!!! That is done and now I am on to the next long wait!!!

How was your visa experience? Any blunders? Were you a crazed organizer before hand?

Hasta pronto!!!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

One Way Ticket

So... I bought my plane ticket to Madrid.

Yes...yes!!! I know...shouldn't I have waited 'til after my visa appointment to book this? Well, no! Tickets were steadily rising and I couldn't bear to pay an arm and a leg after I've seen dirt cheap flights.

I purchased my ticket through StaTravel ( I first had to apply for a discount international student card ($25) which also doubles as a prepaid Mastercard (not a bad deal since it gets you tons of travel discounts for a year and the withdrawal fees are cheaper than most American banks when used abroad).

Because I am over the 26 year old age limit for STA and I have been out of college for a while, I purchased my card first (using the name of the school I was placed at) then called their help line and chose the option to speak to a representative for the student card. I explained the program to her and she helped me to book my flight over the phone and added a note on my reservation about the fact that I was traveling on a student visa under a governmental educational grant.

I decided to only do a one-way trip for now and deal with the rest later since I am pretty sure I want to travel around Europe a bit next summer before coming back to the states (or staying on for another year). Best flight is a lovely overnight flight (see: me drugged up on Melatonin and passed out for the whole thing) and it was only $350!!!! SWEET!!!

So the official plan is this: Leave Miami on Sept. 17, quick layover in DC, land in Madrid early on Sept. 18, catch a morning bus to Logroño, check into lodging, crash until a reasonable time to grab some wine and pinchos!!!

As for lodging, that part is still a bit up in the air. A few assistants have been talking about getting a vacation apartment rental and splitting the costs while we all apartment hunt. Unfortunately, Logroño has very limited advertisements for cheap hostels. So, this is a kink that I still need to work out.

Completed Tasks:
- Finding a home for my doggies. (It  is awesome)
- Collecting all needed documents for my visa appointment
- Packing (I had to move anyway!)
- Purchased plane ticket

To-Do List:
- Relocate to Miami until the end of the summer
- Visa appointment at the Miami Consulate
- Find a hostel in Logroño
- Purchase a bus ticket from Madrid to Logroño, then back to Madrid for orientation
-Stress about getting my visa back in time

So yeah...still a few things left to get together...but I'm feeling the excitement again (this was lost temporarily in the teary anguish of giving away my pups and moving out of my house)...bring on España!!!!

Hasta Pronto!!!!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Seattle State of Mind

So, this summer I have been on this whole "discover the home front" kick. I have been forcing myself to try to enjoy more of the things going on in my own neighborhood, see some parts of America that I have not seen before, and explore some places that are on the fringe but not so far from home.

My first trip (not in America--I'm not that slow) was to Jamaica... Now here's the thing... Jamaica is my special place. Not unlike Vegas. And like Vegas, there is not a chance in hell that I would attempt to recap the experience on a website for all the world to read...if I were to tell you, I'd have to kill you. And no one wants the mess. So instead, enjoy this lovely photo of Jamaican scenery:

Ain't it lovely?!

After that I head over to Alabama and had a short weekend visit with some friends that Swift and I met in Jamaica. I'm on summer vacation, right? So, why not?

Most recently (see: last week), I headed up to Seattle, WA. A very good friend of mine was having brain surgery and we decided to go be cheerleaders for her recovery. (She is doing amazing by the way and I couldn't be happier) While she was getting her much needed rest, Swift and I jumped around the city, exploring all of its nooks and crannies.

Now, let me explain my feelings toward Seattle....if that's its real name...

I do not believe in Seattle. I don't believe in Montana. Or Wyoming. Or any version of a Dakota. They make no sense to me and I have never met anyone from these places. They are made up little lands, constructed to keep Texas and California from taking over the west side of the country. Really. It's true.

Visiting Seattle only managed to reinforce this idea. Sure I saw the beautiful snow-capped mountains while standing on piers and inhaling delicious salt-tinged air. But there were nurses named Tinkerbell and Elf. No one knew that the 90's were over and that grunge long ago died a swift and painless death. People were nice nasty and there was not a scrap of even mildly tanned skin for miles.

So you see, this place is a fairy land that does not truly exist. I am chalking the whole week up to a high that I don't know how I got and a camera that captures images from mental trips.

Go ahead...put on your best psychedelic look and ride the wave with me.

This lady was soooooo creepy. I love street performers.

Swift always speaks to strangers. One day this may prove problematic.

It was around 50 degrees all JUNE!!!

I am all about conveyor belt sushi!

A baby crab on an oyster...Swift was the brave one and ate it.

Finally 65 degrees...time to TAN!!!!     -_-

So of the was awesome to meet you (however much I made you up in my head)...and you shall definitely see me again some day!

Hasta Pronto!!!