Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Lessons Learned.

Spain is my classroom. I came here to teach others but in reality, I've been the student, learning something new everyday.  I've seen more than I can remember and I remember more than I've seen. Welcome to Spain 101: Spain as I've Seen It.

1. It's perfectly okay to drink beer with churros at 7am.
2. It's normal to be ten minutes late... but don't arrive later than the Spaniards...
3. Dos besos when you arrive and before you leave. 
4. Spaniards think Spanish food is the best in the whole world. Spanish food is very, very good - but there isn't much variety.
5. Chinese food in Spain is different - very "Spainese" - as there is "pan chino" and rice dishes similar to paella.
6. Spaniards don't drive with air condition on in the car 24/7. You're hot then you're cold...
7. Mix your drinks!!! Drink beer with lemon "Clara/Shandy". Drink Fanta with red wine "Tinto de Verano". Drink Coke with red wine "Calimocho".
8. If you hug someone, not only will they find it strange, but they'll feel the urge to sway back and forth. Stick to kisses.
9. Doing nothing is perfectly normal. 
10. Nothing is open on Sunday; stock up on Saturday.
11. Always have a spare bombona on hand... or you'll be showering cold for a few days!
12. Friends who have cars are really, really great friends. 
13. Walking all over town doesn't mean you'll lose weight.
14. Spanish gym classes are like spending an hour in a discoteca at 9:30am. WONDERFUL!  "If I don't practice, I don't remember the routine. If I don't remember the routine, I won't burn calories. If I don't burn calories, I'll still have a huge butt." -- Sonia, our workout instructor.
15. There is a big difference between Spaniards who are university educated and those who aren't. It's a pity these groups don't intermix because they could each learn something from each other. 
16. When your clothes drys in a day, you know it's summer time.
17. What happens in the pueblo... everyone will know by the next morning. 
18. Thanks to the new smoking ban in ALL bars and restaurants, you can wear the same clothes two days in a row. 
19. Spaniards stare. [a lot.]
20. Due to the smoking ban, all bars have moved into the street [even in the dead of winter.]
21. Most Spaniards think the smoking ban is just a "suggestion", and choose not to follow it.
22. Spain knows what a "fair" is. America, let's get with the show.
23. 'El Toro Loco' is the best fair ride, EVER.
24. Black vodka and Fanta limon goes down like water.
25. Waking up with a black tongue is a common occurrence [for me.]
26. Everyone knows you're not Spanish when you start shouting the lyrics to "Only Girl".
27. Spanish overload? Watch MTV in English.
28. Just because you don't know who someone is, doesn't mean they don't know you. Chances are, in the pueblo world, most people will know who you are: you're the foreigner.
29. To make a bi-continental relationship work, you have to find someone who is ready to deal with the fact that your life [and sometimes you] is on another continent.
30. Spanish teenagers [even those who go to private English academies] don't like learning English.
31. Spanish niños are obsessed with anyone who is not Spanish. "Las Inglesaaassss!"
32. Students are scared to say say hello to you when they see you in the street or in a disco.
33. Because the drinking age is 18, it's normal to party with your students. [18 is just a suggestion, like the smoking ban.]
34. It's ok to ask "What's your favorite alcoholic drink?" in a high school classroom as an introductory question; it's like asking "How old are you?"
35. Botellon.  > Tailgate.
36. Spanish girls dress like they are 10 years older than they really are.
37. Everyone wears clothes from Stradavarius.
38. Bracero = Lifesaver.
39. Only buy food you know you'll eat; carrying groceries home isn't a fun workout.
40. Drinking beer is perfectly acceptable at any time of the day.
41. It's impossible to only have one caña.
42. Spaniards wears white shoes all year round.
43. If someone says "Rubia" - 9.8 of 10 times they will be talking to me. 
44. Four things about pig ears: 1) While they look like hash brown potatoes with ketchup, they aren't. 2) The flavor is ok. 3) The texture is not. 4) The thought of chewing on cartilage is disgusting.
45. Spanish pueblos are very different than towns in USA. 
46. Spaniards live life in the street and Americans live life in their cars. [I prefer the first.]
47. Eat honey and cheese - together.
48. If you can't roll your "R"s, it is impossible to say "chistorra" [waiters will laugh at you and call you 'la chica chistorrita' when they see you.]
49. The fish are small in the gargantas. I like swimming there.
50. Wear sunscreen. If you're blanco like me, just an hour in the Extremaduran sun will leave you as red as an apple.
51. When traveling with a large group of Spaniards, be prepared for bomb checks through airport security. [especially in London!]
52. Iberian ham is delicious. If you tell a Spaniard you don't like it, she will try to force-feed it to you... [Maria!]
53. When offered a coffee, it's easier to just drink it [with lots of sugar] than to explain to a Spaniard that you don't like/drink coffee.
54. Spanish children win the award for 'best dressed kids'. 
55. Extremadura is Spain's best kept secret. 
56. If you go to Tenerife and visit El Teide, go on the Teleferico if it is open. If it's open, it's your lucky day. 
57. Casetas are one of the best party locations. Ever.
58. It's impossible to find all the songs you hear in the bars online. 
59. The United States needs to take notes about Spain's public transportation system.
60. You're never too full for postre
61. Salamanca has the best Plaza Mayor in all of Spain.
61. The Valle del Jerte has some of the best cherries I've ever tasted.
62. Sometimes bars give you candy tapas instead of nuts; those are good nights.
63. "Mercaaaadooonna, Mercadoooonna." It's the cheapest grocery store.
64. You don't see too many drunk Spaniards; I think this has something to do with the low drinking age. Unlike Americans, Spaniards drink socially vs. drinking to get drunk. 
65. Sangria isn't a staple drink at a Spanish meal. It's the touristy drink. [and man is it good!]
66. Not all Spaniards like/support bullfighting. 
67. [Most] Spanish teenagers have no respect for their teachers. 
68. What's up with all the graffiti, Spain? 
69. You can't blame everything on the "crisis"...
70. Telepizza no longer has pollo asado.
71. "Sorry, this video is not available in your country." 
72. When going to the countryside [and you're told there will be a fire] don't expect to roast smores.
73. Americans and Spaniards party for the same amount of hours during the night; Americans start earlier and Spaniards finish later. 
74. Spanish persianas (blinds) are one of the best inventions ever. Total black out.
75. All Spanish kids spell the number "20" like this: Tuenti. [Thank you Spanish Facebook.]
76. "Last weekend I went to THE Party." -- every Spanish teenager in Monday morning classes.
77. Spaniards cannot avoid saying an "E" in front of English words that begin with "S". "I'm from Espain."
78. Eating outside on the terrace is more expensive...and more fun.
79. Everything closes in the afternoon from 14:00 - 17:00 for siesta. 
80. Spanish life isn't just about siesta and fiesta.
81. In Extremadura, when you enter a store or restaurant, you greet the other people by saying hola! or buenas! and when you leave by saying adios! or hasta luego!.
82. Always walk in the shade.
83. No Spaniard will be seen in the streets during siesta - especially during summer.
84. Los albanicos (hand held fans) might be stereotypical to Spain, but are used all the time. In the summer, everyone carries one.
85. If you want good seafood, go to Punto Umbria, Huelva. The seafood is so fresh, you can taste the sea.
86. Every Spanish woman wears wedges.
87. A wise Spanish woman told me: "que no permitas que nadie te haga daño, vive el momento que estás aquí lo mejor que puedas y no te agarres a nada que te haga daño."   
88. Always read the fine print or ask for a full translation of important papers. People may (and will) take advantage of you because of the language barrier.
89. Rebajas are always a good excuse to go shopping.
90. On finding friends: good amigos are hard to find, but when you find them, don't let them go.
91. Post-it notes are awesome and look great on car windows.
92. Spanish DJs rock.
93. When possible, buy train and bus tickets a day in advance to avoid someone saying "esta lleno".
94. Being someone's cousin seems to have more importance here. When you date someone, their cousins call you "prima".
95. Spanish weddings are super dressy--prom like--and there is no such thing as a bridesmaid.
96. Spanish people don't put too much importance on on their cars - most are scratched from driving on narrow streets or other cars bumping into them while parking.
97. When it's your birthday in Spain, you pay for everything. No one pays for you; you're expected to pay.
98. Chino stores have everything; they are like Walmart.
99. Being in Spain legally is such a pain. Solicit paperwork. Pay tax. Wait. Pick up the paperwork. Wait. Solicit more paperwork, Pay tax. Wait. Pick up the paperwork...... Wait some more.... If I never go back to the Extranjeria in Caceres, that would be ok with me.
100. Getting mail from friends and family doesn't happen near enough. [If you need my address, ask.]

AND the 101st thing I have learned: It's not where you are or what you're doing, it's who you're with. I think this is the most important thing I learned this year. While I'm so far from home, I couldn't feel more at home.  I experienced this in Salamanca and Malaga too, but living in a village really makes you appreciate the people around you more. When you have lots of opportunity to do exciting things, in big cities for example, you are focused more on "doing" things rather than "experiencing" things. This year, I learned to do nothing and be completely happy.  Whether it was a simple conversation, a car ride, walking down a new street, having a cana, listening to a song... the littlest things, it was always more fun with friends at my side. It's all the times you say "you had to be there" that make this experience worth while.

Muchas gracias a todos mis amigos, mis companeras de piso, y la gente de Jarandilla de la Vera y Navalmoral de la Mata para darme una buena bienvenida!  Me alegro por conocer tan buena gente. Ya os echo de menos. Me llevo conmigo buenos recuerdos de nuestro tiempo juntos. Ven a Vallladolid a visitarme!!!!!!!! No me diga adios! Hasta pronto!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Polska [&otherimportantevents.]

When I met Adam Kubera in Spain last November during the EcoComenius visit to Jarandilla, I never thought our conversations would become my future reality.  I distinctly remember being Adam’s bus buddy on most of the bus rides to Merida, Caceres, Monfrague… and all the time Adam saying “You should see if you can come on the Poland trip! It’s the final Comenius meeting and it would be a great experience for you to come.”  Well, while I smiled nicely and secretly hoped that I could go, I never really thought I’d have the opportunity to attend. But, when Divina asked me just a week before the meeting to go, of course I said “SIIIIII!!!!!!”

That’s how I love trips: last minute.  I never seem to know what’s going tomorrow, so when I have a trip booked, I don’t want to wait around for it.  I get chills saying “See you next week!”  The majority of trips I’ve made so far in 2011 have been Comenius trips or to visit friends in other countries, so there has been added excitement in getting to see friends and not just exploring a new city or country.

When I think of Poland, I think of Nazis.  Nazis were the only people in history classes who interested me, because they were so out of the ordinary – completely mental.  I had the opportunity to visit Dachau with my grandparents and mom while visiting Germany in 2009.  It was a surreal experience being at a concentration camp; being there where everything took place throughout history was an incredibly weird feeling.  On our first day in Poland during the Comenius visit, we visited Auschwitz and Birkenau, the largest concentration and death camps in Nazi history.  The sheer size of these places… seeing the train tracks, passing through the gate that reads “Arbeit Macht Frei” [Work sets you free!], seeing fields of chimneys from where prisoner barracks use to stand, visiting un-restored still existing barracks, and touring the museum seeing unimaginable amounts of shoes, clothes, suitcases, combs, eyeglasses… and the most unbelievable exhibit with over 2 tons of hair. I couldn’t believe my eyes, it was so horrible. 
After retuning back from Auschwitz, we spent the next few days in Krakow, Poland’s capital.  We toured the city one day, in COMPLETE RAIN. Seriously, it was monsooning.  And, FREEZING!  It’s the kind of day you pray for when it’s 40 degrees Celsius in your flat with no a/c…no breeze…no fan, but even then, you wouldn’t really want to experience it.  (I had flashbacks to Verona, Italy, when I had bubbles coming out of my shoes when I moved my toes due to so much rain.)  And I, being a person who absolutely hates getting wet in my clothes (and usually doesn’t even go on water rides at 6-flags), was completely miserable.  Unlike my Comenius friends, I didn’t give in and buy a brightly colored poncho that would have made me look like a Teletubbie.  With my umbrella in hand (like a Scottish person I know) and my purse under my jacket, I made it through the day with only soaking wet shoes. I’m sure Krakow is a nice city, but the rain really ruined it for me.  I think it deserves another trip sometime, and I’ll be sure to check weather forecasts before I do!  We visited caves, the old market square, and had a traditional lunch...all in the rain.
Traditional pretzel/bagel things.
Rainy Market Square
Jewish quarter
Spanish team visiting a castle.
Divina, Maria Jose, Miguel, Toni, Me, Raquel
I thoroughly enjoyed the meals in Poland; there were lots of tastes that reminded me of home.  While most of the first plates were broth based soups and second plates meat with a cole-slaw type salad, all served with a traditional fruity drink, I ate it all up and usually had seconds. One time, having seconds on soup caused lots of problems. The waitress said to me, “Why have you eaten two soups? Now, one of your friends won’t be able to eat. I can’t believe you ate that.” I simply responded, “You shouldn’t have put an extra one on my table.  And, it’s gone, so what are we going to do?” Well, I was really scared she was going to spit on my meat, but luckily she never came back to our table; I think my mean looks scared her away.  At least we all got a kick out of it at the table! Complete differences between American servers, Spanish servers, and Polish servers. American servers would never blame anything on a customer in fear of losing out on a few dollars tip.  Spanish servers don’t care about tips or quick service or putting on a smile or being friendly or bringing you the check or checking on you if you need another drink.  Polish servers accuse customers for eating other people’s food (on top of being the exact same as the Spanish server). Always an experience when you’re out for dinner, sometimes it’s better than others, but isn’t it always.  I’ve always been a critic. 
The soup that started it all.
Another day in Krakow, we went to the Pennine Mountains that form the natural border between Poland and Slovakia. We went on a hike and could see over the valley below.  Poland is so green! This area was beautiful! I had also read in the schedule we were to do a rafting tour.  I was so excited about going rafting, and had it played out to be similar to white-water rafting—all of the Comenius gang in wetsuits, life jackets, helmets… but it was nothing of the sort.  Turns out, rafting there is a traditional sport, (and according to our guide who told tons of [horrible] jokes) a traditional job – like a bullfighter in Spain – it’s a family job to become a raft guide.  He also said they could only be men and they could never marry… yet, it’s a father-son job that must be passed on. So, I really have no idea what was the actual truth. Each raft held 12 people plus two guides dressed in traditional vests.  The rafts were made of wood and had three rows of seats for all of us.  I had the opportunity to be the guide and steer the boat down the river. Well, it was really tiring for all 5 minutes that I tried. Our guide said I was a very strong girl and that I did a pretty decent job! (Must have been the practice I had steering the gondola in Venice when we told him it was my birthday during December Puente 2009.) At some points in the river bend, the river was completely in Slovakian territory which was pretty cool. It was also interesting to compare Polish architecture with Slovakian architecture (homes, churches, etc) as we passed towns that were split between the river.  Due to so many people in the past swimming across to the other side to visit friends, foot bridges were made at several points in the river and people could pass between the two countries with ease. It was a very relaxing, tranquil, laid back ride that I enjoyed – thank goodness it didn’t rain or it would have been miserable like Krakow city tour.

Horses at the highest point of the hike.
Pennine Mountains, traditional houses
Tradiational rafting guide
Rafting down the Dunajec River.
Fellow Comenius rafts! How beautiful is the scenery!?

After three days in Krakow, the whole Comenius gang piled onto a bus and made the 4 hour journey to Łódź, Poland, the home city of our Comenius partner school. Łódź is actually pronounced like “Wodst” so it’s safe to say the Polish language was impossible to read or to sound out.  In Łódź, we toured the primary school and received many hand-made gifts from the students. We were welcomed by small class performances where kids dressed in typical clothes from the visiting countries and saw a Knight show (that I played the Princess—lucky me to be chosen from the crowd! I was avoiding eye contact for a reason!) We toured a high school that had many disabled students; it was cool to see how everyone got along with each other. We took a traditional Polish dancing class and had the best time!  We also did an art class and made posters about our views of Poland with the Greek Comenius team.  I tore up little pieces of red and white paper I found in magazines and made a Polish flag for my addition to the Spanish-Greek poster.
Look at all these crazy letters!
See my flag?
Polish dance class! Divina and I had the best partners!
Lady Whitney and Lord Tom!
New friends!
We made a few day trips to nearby towns to see traditional houses, museums, and botanical gardens. I bought some really amazing traditional Polish art.  Small squares of all hand cut and glued collage type works, and Easter eggs with similar hand cut designs!  Everyone who has seen them think they are wonderful.
The Comenius group visiting a traditional housing, outdoor museum.
Traditional hand-cut art.
Traditional home.
Maria Jose, Toni, Me, and Divina visiting the botanical garden.
Some of the beautiful flowers we saw!
One day, we toured Piotrkowska Street, the main pedestrian street in Łódź.  I bought a cool pair of shoes.  We learned lots of amazing history about the street, the old warehouses… took pictures with lots of statues whose noses bring good luck. We had time for lots of things. We visited the Jewish quarter and saw a synagogue. We visited an old warehouse “Manufaktura” which had been restored into wonderful shops and restaurants. 
Piotrkowska Street
Getting good luck!
Where we had dinner and spent some time shopping!
We had to catch a flight out of Warsaw, Poland's capital city. To make the most of the day, we went early and had the full day to visit Warsaw.  The old city center is beautiful; I think it's prettier than Krakow (but, it was sunny in Warsaw so I enjoyed it more to begin with...) We didn't have much time to really get a good feel for the city, but a day's walk around the town left me with good feelings about it. 
Chopin's grave.
Lunch with Miguel, one of the 5th graders we took on the trip!
The architecture was fantastic! Look at the different colors of the buildings!
Pope John Paul II memorials are seen all over the country.

Once the Comenius trips stopped, I found myself spending lots of time in Navalmoral.  I caught up on the last season of One Tree Hill, skyped with friends, went out with my roommates… it was hard adjusting to life back in Spain with no trips on the horizon. I made fun weekend trips with my friends and had a blast. It was during these times that I realized it’s not where you are or what you’re doing, but the people you’re with. Here are some of those times:

The Fat

One weekend, Maria and I spent the entire weekend in a small pueblo of 300 people called “El Gordo” (“The Fat”) with our friend Edna. Edna has a restaurant and a small hostel there, so we bunked up with her for the weekend. Of course we ate too much and were the only ones sitting in the sun on the patio, but we didn’t care.  At night (ok, all night long) there were cover bands playing and people dancing and Edna, Maria and I were right there with the locals.  We had hamburgers at 4am because we were hungry (not because there was an Americana in the group) and slept in late because we could. We went to La Isla, a big gated community nearby where futbol players and musicians have homes, to watch a soccer game.  Maria and I went on a walk and we saw more storks than we could count. Seriously, there were storks everywhere! We really did nothing all weekend and had the best time, again, it was the company which made it all worthwhile!
Edna(Brazilian), Heldon(Brazilian), Lety(Romanian) and Me(American)!
Photo shoot on Maria's and my walk around town.
Russian Salad. Forks for two!
El Gordo.
How many storks do you see?
This trip to Salamanca was even more "homey" than the others I made this year. Why? Kasie and Amber Distler (two friends from Jefferson City/sorority sisters at Westminster) came to visit! While it was just a quick overnight trip, I really made the most of my time. To recap: While eating lunch in the Plaza Mayor, a guy came to my table and just stood there, eating an ice cream that covered his face. Just as I was about to ask him to leave, he moved the ice cream and I saw that it was my friend Yusseff, who I met in 2008! We chatted for a few hours and caught up on our lives since we last saw each other in December 2009. Later, I walked down one of the main pedestrian streets to visit my friend Jorge at work. Two other friends came by as I was visiting with Jorge.  Rafa and David were really surprised to see me in the shop with Jorge! Seodhna, an Irish girl who has all the same friends as I do in Salamanca, came to meet me at the shop and she and I went for afternoon drinks.  Kasie called me around this time and said they had made it to Salamanca! Finally! We met up, took some pictures on the balcony of their room that overlooked the Plaza Mayor (awesomeee!!!) and went to Lourdes' house. Lourdes is my old host mom from 2009, were Amber was going to be living for the summer!  We all went to "my old house!" and got to hang out with Lourdes for a little bit! Later, I went to my friend Jamal's house for dinner before meeting back up with Kasie, Amber and their parents for drinks at Chido's/Elektrotaco, Rafa's bar. At Chido's, I saw several more friends--Oscar and Javier--both were shocked to see me. Kasie's family was a little shocked that I seemed to know everyone we ran into, too! Then, the rest of the night was spent going around to all our favorite places, with lots of dancing and chupitos. I stayed out later than Kasie and Amber to spend more time with Seodhna, Rafa, Nacho and Oscar. Hands down, one of the best times yet in Salamanca! So glad I could spend it with wonderful friends!
Overlooking the Plaza Mayor!
Looking up! :)
Me, Amber, Kasie - out in Salamanca!
My group of friends from Navalmoral went to Caceres to celebrate Feria (fair). We hadn't seen rain in weeks... and it decided to start monsooning as we exited the bus to enter the fair. It down-poured for about 20 minutes as we huddled underneath buildings with everyone else. As it cleared up, we ran across the grounds to the Casetas. What is a caseta? Only the best invention ever at a fair -- drinking tents! Casetas are open all day and night long; at night (3am - 5am) you can't walk due to massive amounts of people. All the bars in town open a caseta at feria. (These are typical during Carnaval celebrations too if you remember my Carnaval blog!) We also rode "El Toro Loco", my favorite feria ride... Diana, Oscar, Maria and I spent more time on the floor/getting back onto the bull than actually riding the bull. I think I lost a few pounds from laughing on top of having the time of my life! We had hamburgers and hot dogs between rides and casetas... seriously, had the best time!
Best fair ride. Ever!
Got our tickets!
Diana, Maria, Oscar and I ALL on the ride. (not for long...)
Oscar on...
No one on, but I spy my hand!
I <3 Casetas!!!!
One Saturday, Maria and I wanted to go to Parque Warner Bros (Theme Park) in Madrid.  We went with high hopes of buying our return train tickets when we got to Atocha. However, they were sold out; there went our hopes of going to the theme park. Instead, we hung out in the center of Madrid for the afternoon. We rented a paddle boat in Retiro Park where Maria soaked a woman in the boat next to us. Twice. (Hilarious!) I suntanned while she paddled us around. Later in the afternoon, we went to the Plaza Mayor and had lunch at one of my favorite restaurants--KitchenStories. We had a wonderful afternoon! Maybe it was better that the train was full...
Lazy afternoon at Retiro.
Protesters overtook Sol (The plaza where everyone goes for New Years Eve.)
This sign means "this isn't a drinking party".

Maria and I in Madrid's Plaza Mayor.
Chocos y Coquinas
Another last minute trip was Huelva, Andalucia. My friends Edna, Manolo, Yandelin and I drove to Punto Umbria for a really relaxing weekend.  We stayed in the nicest resort, suntanned, ate fresh seafood at beach-side restaurants, visited “American” neighborhoods, rode in a 59 Cadillac from Missouri!, went shopping, went out… it was such a fast weekend but completely jam packed with fun! 
Edna and I on the short walk to the beach!
So. Many. Shells.
Barcelo Punto Umbria
Huelva Coquinas, small clams that are AWESOME.
59 Cady, originally from Missouri! Julian took us for a ride!

We rented a paddle boat with a slide for afternoon fun!
Several days were spent going to the wonderful gargantas in La Vera with different groups of friends. A garganta is a mountain river that pools up to form natural swimming pools. They are beautiful and should be taken advantage of.  There aren't so many fish, so I actually enjoyed swimming in these rivers! I’m not so much of a nature buff, but I made the hike a few times and really enjoyed myself. Too bad there aren't any gargantas in Valladolid...
so the water wasn't so warm at the beginning of the summer...
Once, I agreed to hike about 40minutes. Just once.
But, this was waiting at the end of the hike. BEAUTIFUL!

On the many Comenius trips, I became friends with people from all over Europe.  One couple in particular, Robert and Enid from Holland, invited me to visit them the end of June. I went for a four day weekend.  They showed me “true” Holland, as they say Amsterdam isn’t really what Holland is all about. So, I saw windmills. I ate bitterballen. I rode a bike. I bought cheese.  Robert gave me tours of Rotterdam and Schiedam from his convertible (a really great way to see a city!) We visited Delfshaven, a city where the Pilgrim Father's church is located and where the Mayflower sailed from! It was such a pretty place and so full of history!  I also had the opportunity to see a friend from high school, Lauren Delaney, who is playing softball in Den Haag.  Lauren and I rode the tram into town and had lunch and mini pancakes for an afternoon snack! We went to the beach and cooked dinner while we caught up on each others life.  It was another great weekend spent with friends and I'm happy I had the opportunity to go. 
Delft -- "Little Amsterdam"
Modern Architecture in Rotterdam "Tree houses"
Lauren and I at her games!
Windmills in Schiedam. The Kettle One Vodka distillery is just upstream!
Part of Rotterdam that wasn't bombed: Delfshaven.
We had bitterballen and Pelgrim beer just down the street from where the Mayflower sailed from in Delfshaven!
The North Sea!
Before the scariest bike ride ever to the beach!
mini pancakes! yum!
I made two surprise trips back to Jarandilla to visit fellow teachers and students thanks to Divina's help. These days were bittersweet. I knew they were my last days with the kids and full of goodbyes. But, at the same time, they were so fun! The kids put on final class performances and ended the whole show by shouting “We love you, Whitney!!!” I was really embarrassed to be called out like that, but it was such a good feeling to know I really made an impression on them.  While many people say the kids will forget me and move on when the new assistant comes next year, I really hope they don’t. I won’t forget them when I meet my new students. Here are some pictures from the last days of school with some of my students in the primary and high schools!
Some of my favorite 6th graders made me a poster!
He brought me flowers from his garden... then ran down the hall!
One of the two 5th grade classes!
Some of the cards and posters the kiddos made me! I love looking at them!
1 ESO - 7th graders!
2 ESO - 8th Graders! One of my favorite classes in the high school!
With the high school English teachers!
Roberto, Trigoso, Me, Antonio, Laura

Days in Navalmoral
Once the school year ended, I found myself with lots more time to enjoy myself.  Maria and I joined a Spanish aerobics class every morning. We went to “the pool” – well, the pool was too far away, so we went to the fairgrounds to suntan. I would walk through the sprinklers. We would eat icebowls.  We made lists of our favorite things. We had time to just talk about anything and everything. We would never last longer than an hour sitting outside due to the heat/fear of getting burnt like the first day we laid out.  We went for tapas with friends and spent late nights out in our favorite bars.  I met Maria’s mom and we enjoyed good days together. We baked (things that you don’t need an oven for of course) and we played jokes on people’s cars during the wee hours of the night/morning (and sometimes in the middle of the afternoon when we knew we wouldn’t be caught.) We fought giant grasshoppers that came in through our windows. And did everything we could to beat the heat.  Maria left a few weeks before I did, so the last few weeks I spent with Spanish amigos, trip planning, and packing. I knew the last weeks would go quickly, but I couldn't believe how quick they really went.
Fun in the piso before going out! Viva las tres companeras del piso!
Several mornings ended here. Churros!
(See the people at the end of the street? They are eating kebabs at 6:30am!)
Acting like our students. We found a hidden park!
Ice pops at the "pool".
baking fun treats!
Claire, Alba, and I having some fun at Liverpool English Centre!
Moniva, Dioni, Mamen, Isma, Me, Pedrero at El Abuelo!
Afternoon at the real pool... these lifeguards don't look to ready to help!
Diana, Dioni, Mamen, Jose, Eric, Me - Last Thursday night!
Rodrigo and Minerva, two of my favorite kiddos from private lessons!
Out for a goodbye dinner!
I can’t believe my first year of teaching English in Spain is over.  It went too fast.  At times, I was so tired and just prayed for the days to come when it was summer.  When summer came, I just wanted to rewind the clock and do it all over again.  Participating in this teaching program was the best decision I’ve ever made, and one of the scariest. When I left my house last September, I had no idea what was ahead of me – no flat to move into, no friends, no idea what my classes would be like – just me and my suitcases.  I knew that all of those things would change with time, but I didn’t realize the outcome the year would have.  I never imagined what was ahead of me or how the year would go.  I met wonderful people, ate wonderful things (minus pig ears), saw cool things, changed lives (haha)...and acquired so much stuff that I filled an entire car.  
All the things that are in storage in Spain...
I'm going to miss this place. Mucho.

I take wonderful memories with me from this year and hope that next year knows what big shoes it has to fill.  When one door closes, another opens; here’s to year two!
"Bye bye Whitney!"