My Love Affair with England

This summer, I had the opportunity to work in North Devon, England.

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It was the tail end of my year abroad and when June hit and most of my auxiliar friends left Bilbao, I was starting to second guess my epic idea to stay in Europe for the summer. To say that I was “over it” was an understatement, but the instant I got off off the plane in Bristol, I couldn’t stop smiling. It was the same smile I had when I landed in NYC after backpacking and when I landed in Atlanta to visit home for Christmas in 2013. It’s that warm feeling you get of being home after a time away, the recognition of the language, feeling a deeper connection with others around you and just the feeling of being at home. I never thought I would experience this in any country but the USA, but when I landed in England, I knew I was in for a great summer. 

Did I mention I was traveling this whole time with a camp of 80 spanish students and 12 counselors? Definitely made for a more interesting travel, but I was used to working with spanish highschool students from the year before. Once we landed in Bristol, we hopped onto charter buses that drove us the 3 hours to North Devon. On the bus, I immediately made friends with the bus driver, who I am not kidding when I say, looked like Prince Harry. It was so cliche, but I can’t even make this up! I asked him what to expect about North Devon, because I honestly did NO planning before hand and frankly, wasn’t even sure where I was going in England (side effect of being “over it” at the end of a year of living abroad). He explained the towns we were staying in (Barnstaple and Bideford) were sleepy towns but definitely had their own culture (as a local, he kind of bashed it the way I bash Mason, OH; which I thought was hilarious). I had mentioned that I had visited London, but he assured me this was nothing like London–not even the accents were the same.

Rolling hills of Devon

Rolling hills of Devon

I arrived late in Barnstaple and was promptly taken to “Elizabeth’s House”, where I would be staying. Angela, the english coordinator for the camp, assured me that I would get along with Elizabeth, as she was a retired fashion designer from London (she had designed dresses for Julia Roberts!). Opening the door to Elizabeth’s house, it was the most elegant house I have even been in. Chandeliers hung from the ceiling, elegant artwork filled the walls, rich furniture infused every room and the house had a color scheme that looked like it was from a Jane Austen movie. Not to mention, the house overlooked Barnstaple and outside was a magnificent garden with small wooden bridges and fountains. Each night, Elizabeth cooked a huge dinner and I definitely improved my manners. I was staying with 2 other english teachers and a spanish student. The 2 other english teachers had been students at Cambridge and the girl, Nora, was the most elegant and proper english girl I had ever met. She had the quintessential english accent and the best table manners I had ever seen. Dinners became hilarious for me and the spanish student because, quite frankly, we were messes at dinner relative to every one else. There were some dinners we couldn’t even make eye contact without laughing–that’s how bad it was. Ron, Elizabeth’s husband, was pretty deaf so we were always shouting so he could understand us, or he would make a comment that actually had nothing to do with the conversation we were having. It was great.

Part of Elizabeth's backyard

Part of Elizabeth’s backyard

My love affair with England continued when I met Elle, another english teacher and her awesome host family. Elle and I clicked immediately and spent every day in England together, from going to the water park with our students to making sushi with her host family. We definitely worked hard to teach the students english, but had fun along the way! I spent a lot of time with her host family, at barbecues and just exploring Bideford, as I was staying in Barnstaple.

Elle + me + snake

Elle + me + snake

While my love affair with England was cut short when the camp ended, North Devon will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s travel adventures like these that make you realize it’s less about the places you go and more about the people. My summer in North Devon came at the perfect time in my life, as I needed to leave Spain, but wasn’t quite ready to leave Europe. Now, when people ask if I fell in love abroad, I always reply that I did…with North Devon. #singlegirlproblems 

The Return to Blogging

So I’ve been absent from the blog for awhile. I’ve actually had a few posts ready to submit, but I just haven’t. It’s always difficult, because I am such a private person, and sometimes struggle with the idea of posting everything on social media. But then I remember I love blogging and instagram and just want to live my life and the haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate. I’ve also been busy trying to get my shit together (excuse my french), which hasn’t exactly happened but I think things are falling into place kind of, maybe. I’m currently back in Cincinnati, OH, for the first time in 6 years! It’s crazy being home, because nothing has really changed, except I’m 24 now and could use a bigger selection of young, single men here, not the suburban dads; but the suburban moms like to drink wine so we get along fine.

The last really hip passport picture I got to take on my travels home in August

The last really hip passport picture I got to take on my travels home in August

Anyways, after spending the summer in England, I returned to the USA on a high from traveling, making international friends, a crazy summer in England, and a plane ticket back to Madrid already booked. Well, home was a wake up call, and I panicked and decided I wanted to apply to grad school while my MCAT scores were still valid (I CAN’T TAKE THAT AWFUL, LIFE RUINING TEST AGAIN), so on September 22, the day my flight was scheduled to go to Madrid, I got my wisdom teeth out. If that doesn’t explain reality coming crashing down and slapping you in the face and making your cheeks really swollen, I’m not exactly sure what does. 

North Devon, England...Where I lived this summer!

North Devon, England…Where I lived this summer!

So my life right now consists of figuring it out….whatever that it may be. But in the mean time, I am still really focused on travel and health/wellness, so that’s definitely the direction my life and this blog is going to take!

So you would believe the previous picture was actually England...there were some telephone booths nearby.

So you would believe the previous picture was actually England…there were some telephone booths nearby.

Now, I might take the plunge and try to self host…..so I’ll probably not post again until I figure that out….which probably will be in 2015. 

Beauty Tips for Girls Coming to Espana

So it’s been awhile, am I right? I’m much better at instagramming pictures than I am blogging. Anyways, today I was thinking about all the beauty struggles I’ve gone through in Spain and I wanted to write a post for future auxiliares or girls living in Spain with some tips. Some of the tips might seem obvious to people who have been living in Spain, but I mean, just the fact that Spain doesn’t have Walgreens or CVS’s that are open 24 hours a day was enough to throw me for a loop in the beginning. So here was go:

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1. Shampoo/conditioner/normal products can be found at your local grocery store. Check there for things before going to Corte Ingles or a beauty specific store (perfumerias) because it’s cheaper.

2. Buy your hair dye in the USA and bring it over. The hair dyes over here are different. For example, I love Garnier hair dye products, but in Spain they have a different line of products that aren’t semi-permanent and are just completely different.

3. Don’t get blonde highlights over here. They don’t understand toning. I had yellow hair when I got my hair highlighted here because they didn’t tone it. Thankfully, I met an American girl who does hair over here, so she’s been doing my hair and understands how to do natural blonde highlights, not yellow brassy ones.

4. If you can’t find it, go to Corte Ingles or Sephora. 

5. You are going to have to try new brands. I love Jergans natural glow lotion, but they don’t carry it here. So, I just decided to try a different brand and it was fine.

6. Pay attention during tv commercials and read spanish beauty magazines. Just watching tv and seeing commercials, I learn about products. Off the topic of beauty, I’ve been DYING for greek yogurt similar to Chobani. I was watching TV the other day and there was a commercial for yogurt with 2x the protein in different flavors called Dani (made by Danon), but I was like YES FINALLY THE AMERICAN VERSION OF GREEK YOGURT. Next thing I knew, I was in Eroski and there it was! Don’t make the rookie mistake of thinking “Griego” yogurt is American greek yogurt, because it definitely is not. It’s gross and runny and pretty bad for you.

7. Bring powder deodorant and dry shampoo from the USA. Also, the only face wash choice I have over here is Clean & Clear, and there’s barely a selection. I haven’t seen Neutrogena or Cetaphil products (my go to at home) anywhere, so if you are really particular about your face products, I suggest bringing them from the USA. 

8. Buy a straightener over here. When I first came over and was backpacking, I remember being super excited to be in Ireland and was getting ready to go out for the first night in Europe, so I needed to straighten my hair. Well, I plugged it in (with a plug adaptor) and started straightening my hair. Next thing I know, there is black smoke and it smells like my hair is burning. Thankfully, it was just the straightener and I didn’t end up like this girl…

But my wand does work over here! I use a plug adaptor with it, but for some reason it does. The brand is hot tools.

9. Primark and Chinos can have great beauty tools. I got some great eye shadow brushes, loofa and nail stuff from Primark and it’s super cheap. But I mean, you can’t buy foundation or mascara there and expect a good result.

10. Take advantage of the cheap waxing here. A brazilian wax is 14 euros. Enough said. 

Hope this helps for any chicas coming to Spain soon! :) Ask me if you have any other questions. I didn’t want to write too long of a post, but I could probably write 4x as much as a did here about beauty in Spain!

10 Things All New Auxiliares Should Know

I remember last year at this time when I was thinking about doing the Auxiliar de Conversacion program in Spain. I had about a million questions running through my head, and I felt like every blog post I read or facebook group post I read was giving me some solid answers, but also some mixed answers on a few different topics. So, I decided to write this for new auxiliares about the top 10 things I think they should know BEFORE coming into the program.

1. It’s in Spain. I know this is obvious, but with the program being in Spain means that it operates under a spanish timeline. What I mean is that everything takes a little longer here. Everything from a visit to a restaurant to getting your NIE card. With that being said, you also won’t find out about your school placement for awhile, and even after you do, you probably won’t get too much information until the first day you walk into the school. Also, basically the whole month of August, Spain is on vacation, so don’t expect any emails regarding your school to be returned then. Unless you get a school director that’s super into technology and communication, which is rare. But remember the positive too–it’s in Spain! Siestas, vino, parties, different culture, travel, etc. 

Spain in a nutshell. (source)

Spain in a nutshell. (source)

2. It’s run by the Spanish Government. Be prepared for bureaucracy at is finest. It took me FOREVER to get my NIE/TIE because I live in Bizkaia but my school is in Gipuzkoa, so I had to go to San Sebastian police station to get my NIE (just the number), but then had to get my TIE (the actual card) from the Bilbao police station. Why? Not really sure. It really depends on who is working what day and your luck. But in my experience, put a smile on your face and attempt to speak spanish and (most) people will be helpful.

3. Brush up on Spanish BEFORE you come. Listen to music, study general vocab and verbs, etc. Check out my post about learning spanish if you need some ideas!

Don't be this person when you come. (source)

Don’t be this person when you come. (source)

4. Find housing AFTER you come. Don’t agree to anything before you come. It’s better to book a hostel or hotel for a week and figure out where you want to live once you get a feeling of the city or pueblo you’re living in.

5. Come with money. There have been lots of posts in the auxiliares facebook page and the general consensus is come with about $2000-$2500 saved. I came with that much and it really helped me when I needed to quit aupairing and live on my own.

6. Settle first, travel later. Yes, you’re living in Europe and it’s really exciting that you can travel everywhere so easily. But if I could go back and change something, I wouldn’t have traveled so much in the beginning here. It was overwhelming and I feel like now I have a good group of friends who have become my travel buddies and I enjoy the trips I take more. I think trying to settle and getting to know the city you’re living in first is really important. I didn’t feel settled here until late December, then I went to the USA for Xmas and it took me another money after I got home to resettle.

Me, when I got here lolol. I'm still like this. #wanderlustproblems (source)

Me, when I got here lolol. I’m still like this. #wanderlustproblems (source)

7. Use social media and word of mouth for private classes. I got the majority of my classes using the facebook groups. People always post about people wanting private lessons, and once you find a family or two, it usually just snowballs to more people wanting them. Be open to teaching both children and adults. I give a lot of lessons to adults and they are my favorite classes!

8. Bring an unlocked iPhone (or other phone that is unlocked). Seriously. This is one thing I STRUGGLED with when I got here. I don’t like to be that person that is attached to their phone, but when you move to a foreign country and are trying to settle, technology is VITAL. You need it to schedule private classes, for apartment searching, maps if you get lost. I didn’t have a working iPhone here until the middle of November (about 7 weeks after I got here) and it was just awful. If you have an unlocked iPhone, all you have to do is get a sim card and pop it in! It’s so easy. I use Yoigo and I love it. It ends up being about 10 euros a month and I have 3G and cheap texting/calling. In Spain, everyone uses Whatsapp, so text message prices never factor in anyways. And I only call for emergencies. I can recharge my sim card online and I do it every 2 months. So just bring an unlocked phone and save yourself the hassle of getting it unlocked here, or worse, having to buy a phone here. 

9. Not everything is going to work out–be flexible. When I first got here, I was a live in aupair. It was awful. It seemed like it was going to be the perfect situation because I would have free rent/food and only had to watch the kids a few hours a day. Well, a few hours turned into a lot of hours and I was overwhelmed and felt like I had no life here. After a month, I quit aupairing, moved out, find an apartment and began giving private classes. Just remember to be flexible and if something doesn’t work out, change it. 

Always true! No matter the situation. (source)

Always true! No matter the situation. (source)

10. Just breath! It’ll be fine! It’s going to be overwhelming at times, but it’s an adventure and a HUGE learning experience. The best part is, you’re in Spain, so everything is more laid back here. In the USA, I felt like my life NEVER slowed down and I was always going and stressed. Here, while I was really overwhelmed when I first got here, I did have time to relax and breath once I quit aupairing. So relax, half the struggle is making the decision to come and the first 1-2 months of living here. But like any big change in life, it takes time. You’re not going to feel settled and comfortable over night, but give it time. I really think it’s about making it over that 2 month mark, and then it’s pretty smooth sailing. 

Just go! (source)

Just go! (source)

I hope this helps any auxiliares who are thinking about doing the program! I would highly recommend it. And if you hate it, the time FLIES. I am in month 7 or my 8 month contract, and it seems like I just got here YESTERDAY. Let me know if you have any other questions, I’d be happy to answer them!

 

How To Learn Spanish Without A Textbook

When I moved to Spain, my spanish was awful. I’m not exaggerating when I say I didn’t even know how to say “nice to meet you” in a conversation (I had learned it but I didn’t remember). I had taken 3 years (6 months each year, so really 1.5 years) of Spanish in highschool and then a semester in college, but to be honest, it was all kind of a joke. I remember learning bits and pieces, like a few animals (perro, gato), a few irregular verbs (tengo, quiero) and the present tense (hablo, hablas, habla). Y ya esta. That was it.

So getting to Spain was a mild shock for me. Everybody always told me, “ohhh just by living in Spain, you’ll learn spanish. It’ll just take about 3 months.” Well, everyone was lying. Three months into living here and I felt like my Spanish wasn’t improving like I expected. Being an english teacher here means I spend my days speaking english. I have a group of fellow auxiliares and we all speak english together (LOVE YOU GUYS!). My roommate lived in the US for a year and has perfect english. I felt like I was living in an english speaking bubble in Spain and something needed to change! 

Once February rolled around, I was sick of myself not learning as much spanish as I liked. So I decided to make a few small changes that have really made a big difference these past 2 months. And the best part–I’m not sitting somewhere reading a textbook for hours! So here’s the changes I made:

1. Listen to all my music in spanish. ME ENCANTA LA MUSICA DE SHAKIRA!!! Her songs in spanish, in my opinion, are so much better than her english versions. She clearly writes the songs in spanish first, and then “translates” it to english. The translations over to english sometimes actually change the meanings of the songs (a little), and I’ve really enjoyed understanding her spanish versions of songs. Gitana (Gypsy) is one of my favorite songs in spanish, but in english, I don’t like it as much. My first song I learned in spanish was La Tortura…HIGHLY RECOMMEND. 

Anyways, first I listen to the song a few times and try to understand it. Then I listen to it while reading the LETRAS (lyrics). Any words/phrases I don’t understand, I translate and write. After I’m finished learning a song, it gets added to my running playlist and basically drilled into my head. Today, I learned the spanish version of Let It Go. In spanish it’s called Libre Soy which means I am free, so a little different than the english version, but still really fun to learn and a great song.

2. Read magazines in spanish. In my magazines, sometimes I use a pen and write translations and new words in them while reading. But reading magazines has always been fun for me, so I’ve enjoyed reading cosmo each month. And now, I know a lot of the makeup/beauty terminology in spanish which comes in handy when I find myself aimlessly wandering through Sephora and the beauty sections of stores here. Jajaja I’m such a girly-girl.

3. Listen to my students when they talk. With my young students, I learn so much!!! Since they’re only 4-6 years old, their vocabulary is very basic anyways and they aren’t speaking in slang (like my highschoolers) all the time. I teach 2 brothers, twice a week, and the older one is really good at english. I’ll explain something, and I let him translate to his brother if his brother doesn’t understand. At this point, I can obviously translate it too, but when I hear him translate it, it helps me know that he understands what I’m saying as well. Anyways, just listening to my younger students talk, especially when I teach vocabulary, has also helped me!

4. Talk. To. Everyone. Who. Will. Listen. But. Not. Abuelos. Basically, when I go places, I talk to people. I talk to people working there, ask questions, etc. At the grocery store I go to, I made a friend who works there and we always talk when I buy my groceries. Some abuelos (grandparents aka older people) are okay to talk to, but here in Pais Vasco (not sure how it is in the rest of Spain), I find the abuelos a little cynical and not very patient. So, I try to avoid speaking with them just to avoid both of us the struggle and headache.

Probably what abuelos are thinking when I try to talk to them… it says “in my times, the bathroom was for shit and not for taking pictures” hahaha. source

5. Watch tv/movies in spanish. So I’m not in full immersion with only watching tv/movies in spanish yet. I mean, I just started watching Pretty Little Liars on Netflix again, so I just can’t completely immerse myself yet. Maybe after I finish season 4 and find out who A is (judges self), I’ll only watch spanish tv/movies. Anyways, I’ve found it a lot more helpful to watch American movies that I’ve already seen, in spanish. Because I already know the plot line. I also always use sub titles and sit with my computer in front of me with google translate and any word I don’t know, I translate. At the end of the movie, I save the list of words on my computer and review the new vocabulary later!

6. Challenge yourself. The thing about being a native english speaker is, it is the universal language. A lot of people know english and will speak it to you. Here in Bilbao, less people know english than more international cities in Spain, but still a lot of people speak it. With that, I found myself being lazy. If someone knew english, I would just speak english. So I decided to start challenging myself. I told my roommate that we can only speak in english on the weekends, so the weeks, I only speak spanish. I also started speaking spanish with my coworkers, even if we are talking about lesson plans in english. I also actively listen everywhere I go, instead of passively being there. What I mean is when people talk on the metro, I try to listen to their conversations and understand what they’re saying.

Challenge yourself! source

Challenge yourself! source

But like all things in life, nothing worth having comes easily. And learning languages in no exception. It takes WORK to learn a new language. It’s not just going to happen overnight. But, in my opinion, the best way to learn something is to make it feel like you aren’t learning! I’ve made a few changes in things I already enjoy doing, like listening to music, talking to people, watching movies, and lately, I’ve been noticing the changes in my spanish. Now that I’m a teacher, I always tell my students LEARNING IS FUN, and the way I’m learning spanish has been great–sin libros aburrido.

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How did you learn a second language? What is your favorite way to learn? 

Vegan Brownie Batter in a Mug

LO SIENTO for the blog disappearance, but a few weeks ago was CARNIVAL (or, CARNAVAL en espanol) in Spain and I jetted off to Tenerife in the Canary Islands for the week and I’ve been SO BUSY since then figuring out future plans, planning trips, working, etc. Tenerife is definitely one of the coolest places I’ve ever been in the world. There’s not too many places in the world that have snow, volcanoes, volcanic rock, mountains, beaches, cliffs and the ocean all within 1 hour driving distance of each other. Check out my Instagram for pictures from the trip!

You know it's a successful trip when you get a new profile picture for Facebook....

You know it’s a successful trip when you get a new profile picture for Facebook….lol

Onto something equally as important as traveling–chocolate. Do you ever get chocolate cravings? Some nights, I just CRAVE chocolate and I finally found cocoa powder in Bilbao, so I’ve been experimenting a lot with it. I have a recipe that I HAVE TO SHARE BECAUSE IT’S THAT GOOD. I’ve told a few of my chicas en espana about it, but I wanted to share it on here too! It’s ooey gooey chocolatey sweet goodness in a mug. And who doesn’t like eating things out of cute mugs? When I was little, I remember always eating ice cream out of mugs with my dad at night. Since then, eating things out of mugs has always made stuff taste better to me.

Vegan Brownie Batter in a Mug

Picture 95

Ingredients: 1/4 c instant oats, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 2 teaspoons honey, 1/2 banana, 1-2 tsp peanut butter or nutella (optional, but I HIGHLY recommend)

Prep time: 5 minutes | Ready in: 5 minutes

Directions:
Put ingredients in mug in this order: oats, cocoa powder and then honey. Break or slice the banana into smaller pieces and place on top of oats, cocoa powder and honey. DON’T MIX ANYTHING YET. Place in microwave on high for 20 seconds. The honey should be boiling and the banana should be softer when you take it out (if it’s not, microwave a little more). AFTER microwaved, mash and mix ingredients in the mug. Place in microwave for an additional 20 seconds on high.

Nutrition: whole serving contains (without peanut butter)
197 kCal | 2.7g fat | 44.7g carbohydrates | 7.1g dietary fiber | 5.3g protein
*with 2 tsp peanut butter, add around 63 kCal, 5.4g fat, 2.1g carbohydrates, 0.6g dietary fiber and 2.7g protein

This seriously tastes like brownie batter, but it’s healthy and doesn’t have any raw egg, butter, oil, flour, is gluten-free (depending on if you consider oats vegan free–I do), vegan, under 200 calories AND hits the chocolate cravings. What more can you ask for? 

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What’s your favorite food to hit chocolate cravings? Have you every visited the Canary Islands in Spain?