Reverse Culture Shock

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Weird things happen when you come back from a year abroad…

1. Leaving tips *sigh*

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I’ve been out to eat a few times since being back and leaving a tip is. the. worst. Why can’t we just pay our waitresses more?! I guess nothing will compare to the 10 euro, 3-course meal I grew accustomed to in Spain.

2. Understanding an entire menu with ease!

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While we’re on the topic of eating out, I cannot begin to explain the true bliss that is understanding everything that’s on a restaurant menu without having to consult the interwebs.

3. So much space

such space

When I first got back I spent a few days in my hometown (suburbia) before moving back to Chicago. I just couldn’t get over how much open space there is. Front yards, back yards, parks (with grass!), it was a nice sight to see. I guess I should mention parks in Spain are often filled with gravel, not grass… Even in Chicago, the streets and sidewalks are wider so you can actually walk next to your friends *gasp.*

4. Accurate commercial breaks

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This is a weird one, and I don’t know if it’s because Spain plays mainly dubbed American shows, or what, but they would often cut to a commercial break in the middle of a scene.

5. Healthy/Low-cal options

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Based on this blog I’m sure most of you can assume I’ve come back a couple pounds heavier (I wasn’t about to deny myself all of the delish food abroad). In Spain they just don’t have a lot of low calorie/low fat/low sugar options for food. Probably because their country isn’t facing an obesity epidemic…

I still can’t believe my year abroad is over, and that I’m typing this from the good ol’ city of Chicago!

Adventure Time: Prague, Czech Republic

SelfiePrague in pictures!

Alright folks, I’m writing this from my apartment in Madrid (It’s our last day here), and it’s currently 100 degrees (literally), so let’s keep this one short and sweet.

CollageBridge* These two pictures are from the famous Charles Bridge, it’s pretty cool and no cars can go on it

* This was where we saw a momma dog and her 12 very little puppies (cue Shannon meltdown)

* It’s also lined with these really weird statues that I think are derived from Catholicism CollageCastle*So I was really excited because Prague has a “castle,” but it turns out the castle is just a lot of houses built around a beautiful cathedral #woeismeCollagedessert

* Prague has this traditional sweet that’s like a hollow churro, we opted for a chocolate-filled one

* Funny story: we ordered a chocolate-filled one which turned out to be a regular one and a packet of nutella we had to spread on ourselvesCollageFood

*Prague food is all alarmingly similar (and delicious)

*Most dishes are some type of meat with sauce, potato dumplings, and that’s allCollageMarket

*We stumbled across a market where there were lots of pretty trinkets

* How cool is Czech money?!

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*Prague has a super dope Old Town Square

* All of the buildings are pastel colored with pointy tips (I’m sure there’s a technical term for this architecture, but I’m feelin too lazy to look it up)

* This is an astronomical clock that not only tells the time, but also the date, and the position of the moon LOverlook SOverlooks

And ya esta! Our next adventure is homeward *TOMORROW!*

Adventure Time: Dublin, Ireland

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As many of you can imagine, Logan and I kind of have this traveling thing down to a “T”. We’ve realized we are kind of lazy people when we travel, I mean it’s still our weekend so we want some time to chill, and explore a new city. So throughout the year we have somehow perfected the way to see most of any city in 48 hours (give or take) while still leaving the house at 11, taking a nap, and down-right chillin’.

Since Dublin doesn’t have tons of sights to see, we stuck to our three main pillars of travel: food, booze, and wandering.

1. Food

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I don’t actually have any pictures of the food we ate, I guess we were so hungry we just kinda gobbled it all up #sorrynotsorry. The food is what you would expect. Excellent meat, burgers, pies, and lots of potatoes. Oh, and I can’t forget my favorite Irish delicacy: CADBURY CHOCOLATE PRODUCTS!

2. Booze

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beeeer

Dublin knows their way around the alcohol department. I give this city an A+ on that front. We went on a tour of the Jameson Whiskey HQ where we were taught the whiskey making process, given free samps, and able to admire the various Jameson DIY bottle decor they have throughout the place. We also had our fair share of Irish beer (yummm), and went to plenty of Irish pubs.

3. Wandering

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Dublin was cold. Like really, really cold (60 degrees). I think Spain has made me a softy to any weather that’s less than sunny with a high of 95. Dublin felt like winter to us, but we still wandered throughout the entire city. Logan and I made some stops at the Dublin Castle, Trinity College, and the Temple Bar.

Well we have one more adventure time to tell you about, and then we are homeward bound!

Lessons Learned From a First Year ESL Teacher

1. Creativity is key

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Did you ever have a teacher who exclusively taught from an outdated, horribly written textbook + workbook combo? I did. And do you know what I learned from them? NOTHING. I’ve learned that classes should be really fun and engaging and as a teacher you should always try to make it seem like a different form of entertainment. Any subject can be interesting if you sprinkle some creativity into it. (I once made a dating game to practice physical description words)

2. Teaching is exhausting

Exhausting

As a student you don’t fully comprehend or even try to understand the effort your teacher is making. Your job as a student is to sit, listen, and learn. Your job as a teacher is to facilitate, present, listen, ask 1 billion questions, get everyone involved, try to be creative, manage the classroom, I could keep going but I think you get the drift.

3. Don’t underestimate your audience

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Just to clue you in, in my classes I talk in English 100% of the time. Even with my super young students (5year olds), and they can still understand what I want them to do. They can follow directions, and even answer a lot of questions. It’s easy to disregard small kids’ intelligence, but I wouldn’t.

4. Things will go wrong, learn to BS

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How many times was the Internet down, my PowerPoint was broken, or an activity I planned didn’t take up the whole class period? More than once. But thinking on your toes is essential in teaching. I learned to BS my way through a class period by playing a random game, thinking of a last minute activity, or resorting to asking tons of questions.

5. Become fluent in body language

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It is SO easy to tell when students (or any audience) is not interested in what you are saying or doing. When you notice people’s eyes starting to glaze over, you have to switch it up and be a bit creative (refer to lesson 1). Don’t just keep doing what you’re doing because it’s obviously super boring.

So I know most of you aren’t ESL teachers, but I think the lessons I’ve learned as a teacher can be applied to any career field. Being creative and adaptable, knowing your audience, and thinking on your feet are invaluable skills for anyone.

Adventure Time: London, UK

5 best things about London, Logan’s list:

A few months back, Shannon and I visited Manchester, England. We had an awesome time. The food was great, and everyone thought we spoke with a funny accent. After a weekend there, we knew we had to dedicate another visit to the British Isles so we could see as much of the English capital as possible.

Overall we LOVED London…. the list could go on for a while, but here are my top 5 reasons why.

1. They speak English!

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Yeah, super obvious, but one thing that traveling and living in a foreign country teaches you is that language is really important. It connects you and your people, and you can instantly identify foreigners. While Shannon and I certainly don’t have a nice English cockney, English is more or less English. If you need to complain or ask for directions, you can easily do this in London, even if it involves using your dope American accent. Basically, it’s just comforting understanding everything.

2. Pubs, Pubs, Pubs!

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English pubs, and the accompanying pub grub, is by far one of the greats parts of any English city, and in London there certainly isn´t any shortage of quaint, picturesque pubs. I mean seriously, EVERY pub looks super cool. Imagine the coolest pub style bar you have ever seen in America and that is like ALL the pubs in London. Shannon and I spend a large amount of our time in London getting pints and sampling the eats. Like we´ve said over and over, the beer in Spain is boring and the variety offered in London is highly appreciated. We also tried our fair share of burgers, meat pies, and local classics.

3. The British Museum

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This place was up there on my list of places to visit, and it soared to the top after learning it’s a totally free museum. We only spent a few hours there, aka not nearly enough time to see everything, but what we did see was really cool. Our main goal was to visit the Rosetta stone (the stone that helped linguists understand Egyptian hieroglyphics) and the Egypt collection. There truly is a ton to see, and Shannon even told me they only display like 1 percent of everything they have. This one is a must for a first trip to London.

4. The sites

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We really only had part of the weekend to spend in London, so Shannon and I took advantage of the time by seeing as many different touristy sites as possible. My favorite by far was Big Ben and the accompanying Westminster Palace. We decided to see this place on Saturday morning, and it as a great way to kick off the weekend. It’s the classic London tourist site, and there are even some nearby red telephone booths so you can snap your classic American in London shot.

5. The Borough Market

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Saving the best for last. The Borough Market in London was by far our favorite place. It is the perfect combination of a standard farmers market (fresh produce, meats, and cheese) and restaurant stands (prepared food, sandwiches, drinks etc.) The place was PACKED with people because it was Saturday and it wasn’t unbearably cold. I think we visited almost every little booth and tried the prepared food at like five separate ones. All the food was AMAZING and it gives you the opportunity to try different local foods without the huge restaurant bill. Essentially, you get to spend the afternoon outside eating and drinking. What is better than that?

5 Reasons Spain is the Best European Country

So what’s the deal with everyone referencing, almost exclusively, Paris and Rome when they talk about taking a European vacation? I don’t get it. Where’s the love for my beloved country of Spain?! By this time I’ve been to my fair share of European countries (Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Switzerland) and literally none of them hold a candle to Spain. So I’m going to declare it, loud and proud: Spain is undoubtedly the best European country, and here’s why:

1.The Food PicMonkey Collage

THE FOOOD! Where do I even begin?! Paella, tortilla, tapas, cured meats and cheese; the list is a long one. Spanish food is amazingly delicious and wonderfully cheap. There’s no other european country where you are basically guaranteed a free snack with every drink you order.

2. The People peopleeee

Working as an Auxiliar and living with Spanish students means I get the best of both worlds. I’ve witnessed the kindness, warmness, and overall welcoming disposition of pretty much everyone I’ve met here, both at work and at home. The warmth and kindness of the Spanish personality is deeply ingrained in their culture: e.g. double cheek kissing STRANGERS when you first meet! If that doesn’t tell you about what kind of people they are, then I don’t know what will.

3. The Architecture architecturee I live in the center of Madrid which means I have the pleasure of being surrounded by the most beautiful buildings. Whether it’s the colored apartments, the never-ending sea of terraces, or the ornate details on the older structures – pretty much every building here is a work of art.

4. The History aqueducts viewSHANNY

Spain is old. This has made me realize that, in comparison to Europe, nothing is very old in the U.S. There’s stuff here from the Roman Empire! Isn’t that crazy? It seems like every Spanish city is rich with history: Granda with the Alhambra, Segovia with the Aqueducts, not to mention all the castles and walls and other miscellaneous historical things scattered throughout the country.

5. It’s Affordable clarasss

Hotels, food, transportation, attractions: everything is so affordable here. To give you a hint: Logan and I usually spend 20 euros on two nights out (lots of eating and drinking), and a weekend lunch. Beers are rarely more than 1.50, and menu items are hardly ever priced over 10 euros. Needless to say we’ve been living a bit of an indulgent life here.

So have I convinced you that Spain is the greatest country in Europe? I hope so.

Adventure Time: Barcelona, Spain

sagrada familia

The third and final stop of our Semana Santa vacation was Barcelona. We were only in Barcelona for a day, but since we’ve actually been to Barcelona once before in February with my mom we had already seen all the big sights Barcelona has to offer (Park Güell, Sagrada Familia, and Gaudi Architecture). So we devoted our day to seeing the part of the city we hadn’t seen before.

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We found a fantastic AirBNB right in the center of the gothic part of Barcelona, so it was super easy for us to spend the whole day exploring. Logan and I started our day with a rooftop breakfast at our airbnb (he made us tiramisu). With our bellies full of dessert for breakfast (what’s better than that), we set out for Parc de Ciutadella.

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One of my favorite places in Madrid is Retiro Park because it’s big and beautiful and has a little pond with rowboats in the center but, goddammit, Barcelona’s park wins this one. Parc de Ciutadella has a giant fountain plastered with gold, a man-made pond with little rowboats you can rent, and palm trees!

Arch

On our way out of the park we saw the Arco de Triunfo, we’ve seen a lot of arches (seems like every major city has one), but Barcelona’s looks a bit different because it’s made of red brickwork which I had never seen before. The rest of the afternoon was devoted to wandering the streets of Barcelona, and wander we did.

LOcean

We made our way to the beach, where people were delightfully playing in the sand while only wearing bikinis (it was a whopping 68 degrees outside). We had some tasty coffee at a hipster cafe, then we made our way to the market. This market, La Boqueria, is the coolest market I’ve ever been to. It’s littered with fresh fruit stands, treats, and Spanish meats and cheeses. But, hands down, the best product at this market is the freshly made juice blends that they sell for a bargain of 1 euro. Logan had a strawberry banana, and I tried the blackberry coconut. LIFE CHANGING I tell you.

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By this time we had walked about 156 miles and were ready to catch our train back home to Madrid. Throughout our entire spring break we had ZERO mishaps. While I can’t wait for our next mini vacation, for now we are ready to chill at home for a few weeks until our next adventure!

P.S. I forgot to post this and we are leaving for London on Friday…