When traveling leads you to you

So its a bit expensive to head back to the United States during Christmas so I like to do the next best thing during those two and a half weeks I have free: Travel.

This year, with two of my other english teaching friends, planned a trip to Berlin, Prague and Budapest and I added on some time in the beginning of the trip to visit with an old friends in Weisbaden. WOW! What a trip!

It ended up being a great time to get to know my new friends and reconnect with old ones. It also reminded me that staying in hostels are not too bad. We stayed in the Heart of Gold Hostel in Berlin. Right near the City Center it was conveniently located to the cool neighborhoods and main attractions and the highlight of Christmas time in Germany…..THE CHRISTMAS MARKETS!!

But this post isn’t about that.

One non-convenient thing about Heart of Gold was that they only offer wifi in the common zone/bar/breakfast area downstairs. When traveling to a foreign country free wifi is coveted so we were forced to spend time socializing with other travelers (joke! no one forced us.) What was really fun about this is when we heard people speaking a language we understood we were naturally curious to ask where they were from, what they were doing in Berlin, how long they had been there, how long they would stay and where we they coming from or going to. You know, covering the basics.

Through this method of quick get to know you, it was also apparent that many of us came without fixed plans and at any point in time you could persuade others to join you in a fun activity. Walking tours, Christmas dinners, trips to the Christmas markets and having four strangers slide down a huge ice slide together holding hands.

It was also during this trip that I was able to realize whether we come from east coast, west coast, the north or South America, we are all on the same journey. The lawyer on vacation, a soldier taking a few weeks personal leave time, a student or a teacher on Christmas break, the expat, the eurotripper find common ground. The people that I find myself with are open to offer ideas and perspective for life changing decisions without judgment. For so long I have felt that I have to go about life in a particular sequence and that I’m somehow messing it up by taking some time to really reflect on what is important to me. I have felt ashamed for not making the search for a lasting relationship the center of my world or even wanting that at this moment in my life. I have felt looked down on for not having a “real job” when I’m old enough to know better. Then one day during this trip I realized my life is my own and I will make my own destiny work for me.

I love traveling.

 

This year I resolve to…

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Well this being my first post of 2014 I find it fitting to start with my New Year’s Resolution.

A New Year’s Resolution is mostly a Western World tradition (according to Wikipedia) and I haven’t noticed anyone in my circle talking about it here in Spain, however that doesn’t mean that I can’t cling to a few of my homeland traditions.

With each passing year have a hard time naming the things I would like to resolve. It feels a bit like Lent in which i never know what to give up! It could be because I try to take on too much at once or I’m not 100% committed to what I pledge. If you are into your smartphone there are apps to help you keep your resolutions. According to this Paste magazine’s website here are six of the top apps to assist you, I have one of the apps (duolingo) listed on the linked website but that is just a coincidence and has nothing to do with my list.

Also if you are not sure what you want to try and improve for this new coming year there is a website that will generate ideas for you here Some of my favorite are “use double-sided tape” and “get to know the neighbors.” You should give it a whirl!

Without further ado, I’m asking you all to keep my accountable to these 5 simple things. In no specific order:

  1. Allow myself time to heal when I am sick without feeling bad about it
  2. Send more cards and post cards to family and friends. At least once a month to at least one person
  3. Run another half marathon
  4. Floss my teeth during the weekdays
  5. Believe the people who say I am awesome instead of doubting them

Turkey means Give Thanks!

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So since I posted yesterday about my Thanksgiving Travels I might as well share a moment about them.

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First thing, being away from my family is hard. Holidays make it worse and FaceTime makes it better. As the Thanksgiving holiday was approaching I spent quite a bit of time trying to refresh my memory on some of the specific details and then try to figure out how to explain that in simple English for elementary students. I prepared my presentation to accompany a quick YouTube video that talks about the history and mentions that the true meaning of Thanksgiving these days is to spend time with friends and family. The more I watched that short video, the more homesick I felt.

Then came the great idea to make a homemade goodie to bring to work in celebration of Thanksgiving day. Here in Spain it’s not actually a holiday. Then I realized… here we don’t have sweet potatoes, pie pumpkins nor pumpkin pie filling, pie crusts, pie pans, stuffing mix, brown sugar, or anything else I could think of in the moment to make and take with me.

The night before Thanksgiving was very upsetting.

The next morning I woke up determined not to be sad. I thought hard about the true meaning of the day and decided to let people know why and how I was thankful for them and let those good thoughts carry me on throughout the day. You know what? It worked.

Some of my messages went like this:

“I’m so thankful you open up to me as a friend and allow me to do the same”

“I’m so thankful for everything you have pushed me to do and allowed me to discover about myself”

“I am thankful that you always push me to be a better person, to think more and consider every side of the situation”

“I am thankful you have always encouraged me to be myself and helped me realize there is nothing wrong with who I am”

“I am thankful I met you by chance”

It’s funny how being away from everything, dare I say, out of the daily grind, I have the view point that things are pretty grand. Sometimes I see this as the effect that Spain has on me, the advantage of a clear viewpoint. No matter how you look at it, I was feeling pretty thankful on Thanksgiving Day and honestly the lonely feeling disappeared.

I also bought a turkey and cheese sub sandwich to take with me to the airport to eat for dinner. Practically the same as being at home in The States!

Surfing… Couch style

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So I am always looking for the cheapest way to travel and this past weekend I went on a trip to Berlin, Germany to visit a wonderful friend of mine.

In order to save 80 bucks I ended up choosing a route like this:

  • Thursday night (Thanksgiving): Fly to Barcelona, landing at 11pm
  • Friday morning: From Barcelona at 10:55am  to Berlin at 1:55 pm
  • Saturday: Enjoy Berlin
  • Sunday: Flight from Berlin to “Stockholm” Sweden at 8:15 am. Take hour and a half bus ride to city center to realize I don’t have time to get off the bus. Catch next bus back to airport and fly to Barcelona again. Arrive Barcelona at 7pm. Take hour metro/train ride to get to where I’m going.
  • Monday: Get up at 3:30 am to catch a taxi to the city center, to catch a bus to catch a flight at 6:15 am back home. Catch the bus from the airport, get home, shower, change and catch yet another bus to work!

Mondays are hella-long and I was exhausted from the get-go. End result: sprained ankle and non-ability to produce vocabulary by the end of the day.

What I did realize though is that if I choose to run myself ragged instead of opting to pay a few more euros, the entire experience changes when you stay at someone’s house instead of doing something silly like sleeping in the airport or going out all night until you need to go through security (I have not done the latter, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t suggested to me once!)

I by happenstance met another American at an orientation for my program here and this fellow American recently re-located to Barcelona. When the offer “If you’re ever in Barcelona..” was put on the table I grabbed it. It was a special treat to go out for a few Thankful drinks on Thanksgiving Thursday and have someone, make me toast, attempt to make coffee and show me the fastest way to get back to the airport the following morning.

It was an even better experience when on the flight back home all the other roommates organized a dinner and invited some friends for an International Sunday Night Dinner. I learned about culture, language, geography and I’m pretty sure I can also say we reviewed the Scoville Scale!!! We drank home grown wine and had a Christmas/Reggeton/Bachata dance party that lasted until midnight.

It was my lovely host, that referred to this experience as CouchSurfing. While I didn’t use couchsurfing.org this time, I did sleep on a couch. Even better than sleeping on a couch instead of an airport: I made some great new friends and I’m planning my next trip to go back and visit them.

So to wrap this all up what I’m saying is, step out of the airport, get to know some people. There are feeling great ones out there ready and willing to open their homes and lives to you! Go couchsurfing.

 

First things first

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So one of the first things I learned as an Auxiliar de Conversacion is that you need to make a little money go a long way. I’m always trying to look for deals. Saving out for deals on clothes, searching searching searching for deals on trips, and doing a little D.I.Y when I can.

My new apartment this year is pretty incredible, complete with a window in every room. Its always full of light and furniture that doesn’t look like the frat pad furniture I had last year. The one complaint my roommate and I have about the place is that the art work is lacking.

I decided to scour Pinterest for easy to make wall decorations and found my inspiration in this photo (http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/8d/bd/59/8dbd59fb21e7734dd23d06fa8052da2b.jpg) and here’s where I went from there.

  • 3 low-cost canvases from the local Bazar
  • 2 colors of acrylic paint
  • 1 paint brush
  • masking tape

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The final result being a bit more color added to the walls and with the gold touch to reflect the light, even a tiny bit more sunshine

Music to my ears

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Last year was pretty rough for me. Every time my friends from the States would talk about new hits on the radio I would be completely lost.

My go-to music box while working 9-5ish for many years was Pandora. Oh how I love Pandora. Pandora, you know me so well!! When I tell you which songs I like and which I don’t, you always remember. I never take for granted when you know just what mood I’m in and who I need to sing to me. You also keep me up to date on the latest hits and all my favorite golden oldies!

However, when I tried to access Pandora last year from my new Spanish flat I received this message:

“Dear Pandora Visitor,

We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for listeners located outside of the U.S., Australia and New Zealand. We will continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a truly global Pandora, but for the time being we are required to restrict its use. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative.”

Seriously?!?!?!!? Without TV in my flat I found my self spending many hours reading and listening to the radio. Spanish radio is great and allowed me to become more familiar with the “40 principales” here.

However, when I went to a huge concert with a fellow visiting American friend and the DJ put on Thrift Shop, my American friend sang along to every word and I had never heard it before in my life. I was instantly disheartened. We really are behind on new music here. It did clear up why a friend had posted “I wear your granddad’s clothes, I look incredible” on facebook. I thought she had scored a great deal at the Goodwill. Ha!

This year everything is different. iTunes released iTunes radio and you play it from your computer or any of your on-the-go Apple products (in my case my iPhone). I can keep up with today’s top hits, new singer-songwriter releases, Christian music in English and the CMA country nominees. Country music!!! Two days in a row I have woken up to my favorite summer hit “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line.

I’m hooked. Thank you iTunes Radio.

Now I just need to make sure I stay up on my Spanish hits……

Aside

Origin of Amanda

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Amanda (given name)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Amanda
Pronunciation /əˈmændə/ ə-MAN-də
Gender Female
Language(s) Latin
Origin
Meaning “She who must be loved”, “worthy of love”
Other names
See also Amandine, Amy, Mandy, Miranda
Look up Amanda in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.

Amanda is a Latin female gerundive name meaning “having to be loved,” “deserving to be loved,” or, simply, “worthy of love.”[1]

The name “Amanda” first appeared in 1212 on a birth record from Warwickshire, England, and five centuries later the name was popularized by poets and playwrights.[2] In the United States, “Amanda” slowly became more prominent from the 1930s to the 1960s, ranking among the top 200 baby names.[2]

From 1976 to 1995, “Amanda” ranked in the ten most popular female baby names in the United States.