Tag Archives: history

Barcelona and Perpignan


So my last post left you on a cliffhanger…what happened in Barcelona and Perpignan during the break!? I have talked about Christmas already, but I know you are just dying to find out what happened on the rest of my break 😉 There is an interesting tradition, and honestly I never looked up the origins, but you’re supposed to eat 12 grapes as the bells chime for the New Year. If you don’t eat them exactly on the sound of the bell, it is bad luck for the rest of the year! Rumor has it, several years ago a famous woman (think Dick Clark’s Rockin’ New Year’s Eve) who always hosts the New Year’s Eve show ate the grapes incorrectly, and then terrible things followed. Maybe unsurprisingly, it’s really difficult to eat 12 grapes one after the other. Right before midnight, most people are in the streets or a major plaza. In Barcelona, one of these major areas is called Plaça de Catalunya. Our whole group was there, counting down with all the other people. I’ve never been in an outdoor place for the countdown before, so I almost missed it! I’m used to there being a TV countdown or something else, but with all the chaos in the street, I wasn’t prepared to start eating the grapes! But I ate them all, and hopefully I ate them at the right time to have good luck in 2012.

The rest of my time in Barcelona was spent mainly revisiting places I had already been, because we had people with us who had never been to Barcelona before and they needed to see the highlights. But like always, it’s a really interesting city with interesting people and places. I always enjoy Barcelona. I even like listening to the people speak in Catalan instead of Spanish or Valencian. The accent is really different. Especially the older people you can hear in the streets or in a restaurant. They have an accent that is very different. I only understand like, 10% of Valencian, but in Barcelona I understand even less because of their strong accents. Supposedly the accent south of Barcelona (in the Valencian community) has been more “polluted” with Spanish and in Catalunya it has less Spanish influence. This has a lot to do with history and politics, of course. But this isn’t a history lesson, it’s a blog! If you’re interested, https://www.alsintl.com/resources/languages/Valencian/ has a good general overview of the two languages. The people of Catalunya are Catalan before they’re Spanish. And many Valencians feel the same.  In America, we definitely have subcultures, depending on the regions, states, and even cities. But overall, we still have a sense of national identity. We are Americans. It’s not like that in these regions of Spain.

After New Year’s Eve, we took a short trip Figueres, Spain and to Perpignan, in the far southwestern corner of France. It’s so close to Spain that they still speak Catalan there! Figueres is the hometown of Salvador Dali and it is also the city he built his museum/homage to himself. I definitely appreciate all the things Dali did for art and his creation of Surrealism, but he sure was a nutty man! I read up about his life before we went, and watched part of a documentary about him. No doubt he was crazy. Most of his more well known paintings are in other museums, but this one was cool because he literally designed everything. Some of the exhibits were created especially for the museum. I really liked the idea that the artist organized (even though it’s Surrealism, so technically there’s no order) where he wanted everything to be.

Then, we popped over to France. Perpignan is a small city, but very lovely with a lot of history. Honestly, I don’t remember a lot of it, but it was interesting at the time! I was glad to see I didn’t forget all my French, I can still read it pretty well. Speaking is another story though. The last 4 months of trying to speak Spanish really hindered my ability to use only French words. Also, I had forgotten how much more expensive things are in France. It’s really crazy. I know they get paid more, but even the fast food restaurants are more.  We got to drive through the Pyrenees at sunset though, and it was definitely worth it! Sadly I couldn’t take a really good picture when the car was in motion, but I will remember the view for a long time.

Those were the highlights of my break, with some parts left out, or else this would have been quite long! And like usual, I miss my family and friends back home. On top of the holidays, most of my family had birthdays! My brother, sister, mom, grandma, grandpa, uncles, cousins; almost all of us have birthdays between December and February. I miss being there to celebrate, but at least there’s Skype, Facebook, emails, and blogs to keep family close, even if they’re 5,000 miles away 🙂

Feliz Navidad, Próspero año y Felicidad


Christmas in Spain! What a different experience than Christmas in the United States. It’s times like these that I realize the things I really miss about home, but I also had new realizations. I know people say that Christmas in the States is very commercialized. I never noticed how extremely commercialized it was though! Half of my warm fuzzy “Christmas” feelings are really just buying and receiving presents. It makes you feel good to buy things for others, but let’s face it, we all like to get presents too! Christmas time didn’t quite feel the same when I wasn’t shopping, wrapping, and dealing with the terrible crowds. But I do really miss the Christmas songs, the decorations everywhere, cold weather, and most of all, being with family. People decorate here, but not as much as in America. And they decorate more with the Belén (nativity scene). I think the weather has been above 35 degrees (Fahrenheit) all of December. I’m used to Oklahoma being much colder at this time of year. This was probably the most homesick I’ve been since I’ve been here. Thank God for Skype! It’s probably the best invention ever. So I could still “be” with my family, at least for a little bit 🙂

It was nice to be with a Spanish family and see their customs and traditions. Christmas Eve was the main dinner, and I tried horse and pig’s feet for the first time. That was definitely interesting! The appetizers were the typical Spanish jamón (ham), cheeses, chips, and other delicious things that I do not know the names of. Dessert is probably my favorite part of Spanish meals. Flan, tarta de queso, fruit, a frozen lemon treat with cava (the Spanish champagne)….mmm! It was all so good.  And then, Santa came! He even knew I was in Spain and brought me a gift too 😉 The little cousins all loved playing their new games on the Wii, and actually so did I! They even made me a character on the Wii. It was all very sweet. Then, the young people usually go out and meet friends for a few drinks and to hang out. For me that was strange, because I’m so used to wrapping presents until 3 am with my mom. It was a great Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day I didn’t do too much, just another lunch and watching movies. Overall I really enjoyed my Christmas holiday in Spain, it’s just not even comparable to the holiday in America because the two are so different.

Mostly I am glad to have two weeks off of classes! I still have to grade exams, oral and written for about 60 students, and then do evaluations for the students. In Spanish. Before classes start. Even though I’m on break, I still have work to do. I guess this is what happens to teachers! But I would rather be at home (or at Starbucks!) grading exams than in class. I have a new class with 3-5 year olds. They are so precious, but ornery to boot! I have to do the entire class in Spanish, which is really helping me with the language. They understand me, but sometimes it is really hard to discipline in another language. The first day, they said things to me like, “Why don’t we know each other?” “Who are you?” “What’s your name?” (all in Spanish, of course) and it was just so cute I couldn’t even stand it! Since then, I’ve gotten multiple hugs, and one of the little girls said in the middle of class, “Guapa! Eres muy guapa!” Which means, “Beautiful! You are very beautiful!” That’s enough to melt your heart! I’m looking forward to going back to that class, and all my others as well. It will be good to get back into my routine after the break.

With the 8-10 year olds, I let them draw after their written exam, because they couldn’t leave. It makes me feel good to know that they like me, at least most of the time! Often a few students stay after class to talk about what happened in their English class at school, or to tell me a story, or maybe where they’re going for the weekend. I really love how sweet they can be!


And I suppose for this year, that’s all I have! I’m heading to Barcelona tonight to celebrate New Year’s Eve (Nochevieja) and then spend the rest of my vacation doing touristy things. It will be nice to have that much time in Barcelona, and maybe a short trip to Andorra or France. We will see 🙂 Until then, I hope everyone has had a very wonderful Christmas and I wish you a Happy New Year!

❤ Besos desde España a todos! ❤



Now Where did November go?!


To all my faithful readers (haha): I am terribly sorry that it has been over one month since I updated you on my life! I’m not sure where the time went. I thought the same about October, but honestly it seems as if the November days have literally flown past me. So clearly my time here is going much quicker than I would like it to.

Halloween was a fun experience in Spain. Really the only reason they’ve started the idea of “Halloween” is because of America. The influence of the American tradition of Halloween can definitely be seen here, but it seems like people who didn’t grow up with “trick or treating” don’t really like the kids coming to their houses begging for candy. It’s still not very common, but it’s definitely something that is up and coming. I was surprised, though, that even many twenty-somethings weren’t dressed up. They just went out to the discos in their normal clothes. But for me, it was nice to be with lots of friends on that night!

As far as classes go, I think each post will be more and more positive. There are good days and bad days, which is totally normal. When I can see them learning and really showing interest in the language, those are the days I feel like I really am accomplishing something. Of course that’s not all the kids, and it’s definitely not every day. I am still having trouble getting through to some of them; honestly I don’t see progress at all. That’s where I’m at a loss of what to do. They don’t even care at all. I’ve spoken to some parents and clearly the parents want their kids to learn English (that’s why they send them to the academy) but in the end you can’t force them. So I just do my best to get through to the ones who care, and encourage the ones who don’t. Positive reinforcement is much better than negative. I realize that they like to work for rewards rather than be “punished” for not doing anything. When they see their classmates receiving stickers for finishing homework assignments, they want a sticker too! It is definitely motivation for them to do homework! Next week we have two days off (Tuesday and Thursday). I am looking forward to a short break from the classes.

So instead of having a break last week for Thanksgiving, we have the break the first week of December. Honestly I’m not sure what the break is for, I will have to find out. It was extremely weird being in a country that doesn’t recognize Thanksgiving at all! It was my first time to be out of America for that holiday. The previous Saturday, some Spanish friends from OU and I had our own celebration. Thanks to my aunt, I had some of our family’s recipes for Thanksgiving. However, finding the ingredients was a different story. I planned on making green bean casserole, corn casserole, a sweet potato dish, and my grandma’s cherry fluff. Well, the corn casserole needed sour cream, creamed corn, and Jiffy corn muffin mix (among other things). But those three ingredients are literally impossible to find in Spain. Some of my Spanish friends didn’t even know what sour cream was! So needless to say, I had to omit the corn casserole from the menu. Also, finding a turkey was going to be an adventure as well. The large central market is supposed to sell turkeys, but our dinner was a last minute decision and there was no time to search for “pavo”. Plus I have never cooked the turkey, and I was a little scared of what might happen!! We made chicken instead, and it was delicious! Everything turned out great (I had to be a bit creative with some of the ingredients) except for the cherry fluff. There’s no Cool Whip here, only regular whipping cream. But something didn’t mix right and the cream just sort of, coagulated when it was mixed with the other ingredients. The flavor was still good, just a very bizarre texture. We tried to freeze it, thinking maybe it could be something different, but it didn’t freeze. Overall though, the dinner was a success. And I was happy to share the day with friends here!

Other things I’ve done the past month include a Medieval Fair and Moorish lookout tower in Montroi, paella and the lake in Albufera, homemade paella in Montserrat, meeting a hardcore DJ from the Netherlands (and experiencing the music for the first time), weekly visits to Thomas & Johnson’s for Intercambio de Idiomas, frequent visits to various markets around the city, always meeting new and interesting people, and I finally went to La Almoina, the archaeology museum in Valencia! It has really been a great month. La Almoina was really incredible. I was there at least an hour, and I didn’t see everything I wanted! I would like to brush up on my history of Valencia (all 2000+ years), and then I think I will appreciate it even more. The museum is under the modern ground level and you are able to see the original two main roads from which all of Valencia is planned.It’s so interesting! I know they give tours of the museum, so I think I will try and take an English tour next time I go. One great thing about Valencia is that all the museums are free on Saturdays or Sundays, so there’s no excuse to not go. I wish I was able to take better advantage of the museums, because so far I’ve only been to four. Luckily I have a lot more time here to visit them all, hopefully more than once!

And as much as I love Valencia, there are of course many things (and people!) I miss in America. I have met a few Americans this month, and it is nice to talk about things we miss from home and our experiences in Valencia. A fellow American introduced me to a booth in the central market that sells a few American products, e.g. Dr. Pepper and Kraft Mac & Cheese! I’ve been trying to hold out and not buy them, because of course they’re insanely expensive, but I think this week I will make a trip and get a can (or two) of Dr. Pepper. There’s also a restaurant/pub, owned by Americans, that has a language exchange on Tuesday nights, and supposedly they have killer cheeseburgers, nachos, and hot wings. I will most likely be there on Tuesday dining on some authentic American food! Once again, I love everything about Valencia, but there’s nothing quite like a good cheeseburger. 🙂

So, that was a fairly brief update of the past month, and I will definitely not wait another month to update! I’m sure too many awesome things will happen between now and Christmas for me to abandon my blog for so long. Also, it’s interesting to note that today is my 2 month anniversary of being in Spain!

Bueno, hasta pronto mis amigos!

Where did October go?


October is flying by! Each week goes so fast. Not that I’m extremely busy or anything, just time goes by really quickly. I’m in my fourth week of teaching already! I will be glad when I feel like I have control over the students. It’s funny, my classes either want to talk all the time (mainly to each other, in Spanish) or I have to beg them to talk. There’s really no in between, which I think is interesting. My most challenging class is still the youngest (9-10) partly because there are 12 of them, partly because they don’t understand everything I say, and lastly because they are 9 and 10! I enjoy the intermediate level kids a lot. They are all very willing to learn, and always ask when they don’t understand or need me to repeat something. The intermediate plus (my most advanced and oldest class) is fun too, because we can talk about more topics, make jokes, things like that. I can tell they are on a higher level, but it’s harder for me because I have to teach more grammar and complicated things. It refreshes MY English!

My next big challenge is conquering Spanish. Sometimes I think I’m doing well, and then other times I feel like I’ve made little to no progress. I realized I am only able to communicate  basic ideas and problems. I can recharge my bus ticket, ask the time, answer questions about myself, go grocery shopping, etc. But I can’t tell stories about people, explain how I’m feeling, make jokes, etc. Basically I can’t be myself in Spanish. I’m just waiting for the day that people will be able to see my true personality! Right now it’s just body language and my attempts at Spanish, which for the most part people appreciate. But not being able to communicate with people I really want to talk to is getting frustrating. I’m not expecting a miracle, I’ve only been here almost 4 weeks, but I will definitely have to start studying more and practicing as much as possible. Luckily I have Spanish amigos who are wonderful! A few of us have decided to have weekly dinners/language exchanges. Two Spanish and two English speakers making dinner, having fun, and practicing English and Spanish. I think it’s something I will look forward to every week!

I still haven’t done much exploring of the city, which I really need to! Besides getting lost last weekend (oops) I haven’t wandered around to see random things. One of the main attractions is the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences). It’s a modern museum complex and a huge tourist attraction (for more info – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciudad_de_las_Artes_y_las_Ciencias).

Something I really enjoy as well are the Torres de Serranos. They were the original entrance to the city of Valencia, and built in 1392. The history of the city is just amazing to me. Part of that is due to the fact that I love history, stories, and archaeology. I have yet to go to the archaeology museum, but I can’t wait until I do! Valencia was founded in the 2nd century BC by Roman soldiers, (Valentia-meaning valour), and has been occupied by the Visigoths, Moors, and Catalans. Needless to say, there is a LOT of history in this city. I went to the modern art museum last weekend, and it was an interesting experience. I appreciate modern art, but I don’t love it. I love the contrast of new and old in Valencia. I really think that is one of it’s greatest qualities. You have the modern museum complexes, bridges, new buildings of the old universities contrasting with the old city streets, archaeology and ancient towers. It’s great!

Besides work and culture, I have been enjoying meeting new people, seeing old acquaintances, and living the Spanish life. I noticed that when Spanish friends go out to dinner, the bill is split equally. Say four people order 3 starters, each a main dish, bottle of wine (or sangria) and dessert. La cuenta is 80€. Well naturally, you each pay 20€,  no matter if your main dish was 8€ and someone else’s was 11€ or if you didn’t really want one of the starters that was ordered. It’s very different than what I’m used to doing with my friends in America. The waiter asks if you want separate checks, and you hear a chorus of YES. Point is, be prepared with your euros when you go out to dinner 😉 You don’t skimp on food at restaurants, meaning you don’t each for cheap. But the food is always worth it! I had the best meal since I’ve been in Spain. It was in Montserrat at El Timple. Stuffed mushrooms, salad, steak, white wine from Spain, shrimp and cafe bonbon. My mouth is watering only thinking about it!

And on that note, I leave you to ponder the ancient culture of Valencia, the challenges of teaching, and the makings of a great meal while I attempt to make a meal of my own. The week has only just begun and I am sure it will be filled with wonderful things!

Adios mis lectores maravillosa!

Two weeks in….


And here we are! Two weeks into my Spanish life. The first few days in Barcelona were quite nice. What a beautiful city full of people, architecture, and excitement. There is always something going on, from random Medieval Fairs to a work out in the middle of the mall. Que bonito! It was a nice vacation before starting my job.

I started my first day of work on Monday, 4 October 2011. The first class of the day, also of my life, was a class of 14 kids, aged 9 and 10. Wow, talk about jumping in head first! With no teaching experience, I did the best I could with the resources I had been given. I know that it will get better and easier with time, but kids are definitely not easy. The older ones are a bit more disciplined, but they don´t necessarily want to be there. With one class, I went around the room asking everyone why they were taking this English class. The response of 9 out of 10? “Because my parents made me”. Great…so I definitely have to try and keep it interesting for them to learn and not hate English. The week continued, slowly getting better as I was more accustomed to hearing Spanish everywhere, paying for things in Euros, and taking the bus instead of driving everywhere. The week ended very nicely on Friday. I was waiting for the bus after teaching, as I usually do, when a nice older lady started to talk to me at the bust stop. Normally, I am terrified when someone talks to me, because I´m not sure if I´ll understand or be able to answer them. Surprisingly though, I understood a good portion of what she said! When the bus came, we even sat by one another, and she continued to tell me about her children, where she lives, where she was going. She also asked me what I was doing in Spain, how I liked it, etc. I found it difficult to answer some of the questions, but I was so happy that I understood! It is still weird to think in English but then translate into Spanish, because sometimes I have to reformulate my sentences to use vocabulary words I know in Spanish. But It was a very nice conversation that ended with her telling me I was invited to her house anytime I´d like! She also kept saying “eres muy bonita!” which means, you are very beautiful. And let´s face it, we all like to be told we´re beautiful 🙂

The weekend in Valencia was extremely vibrant! There was a celebration of Jaume I, because this was the weekend he reconquered the city of Valencia, which was previously under control of the Moors. I´m not sure about all of the history, but now it consists of the best firework show I have EVER seen! The Valencians are known for their pyrotechnics, and it was absolutely amazing. Sunday was a brief parade signifying the taking of the city by Jaume I.

Also, the weather was nice enough for the beach, so no complaints here!


And thus begins week two of work, apartment searching (even though I think this step is conquered), and Spanish learning!