Sunday, May 24, 2015

Keunkenhof: Dutch Tulip Time

 We booked our Amsterdam trip for the final weekend of the famous tulip festival, which lasts from mid-March to mid-May. Keunkenhof is one of the most famous tulip gardens with over 7,000,000 perfect bulbs. I mean, the tulips were actually a lot like the Dutch people: beautiful, lush and vibrant. What is in the water up there? I didn't see a single wilting or limp looking flower. It was incredible.

We roamed around the gardens for hours and stopped for a symphony concert. It was a pretty cute day overall and I highly recommend visiting Holland in the spring. Everyone should add it to their bucket list!You can easily take public transportation from the middle of Amsterdam or book a private walking or bike tour. There are lots of different options for different prices depending on your budget.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Marken, Holland: Cheese and Beautiful People

From Volendam, we took a boat to Marken and went to a Dutch cheese shop (aka heaven). I became a total bobblehead in Marken because every single Dutch person was so tall and so beautiful. Think Yolanda Foster everywhere. The lady working at the cheese shop asked me to guess how old she was. I guessed maybe 30-35 at the very oldest. She's 55! She swears by drinking a cup of whey daily. Who knows... Might be worth a try. We explored the adorable little neighborhoods and saw the traditional green houses with white trim and then had lunch on the water before heading to the south of Holland to see the famous tulips.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Clogs: Engagement Rings for Your Feet

Located in North Holland, Volemdam is a tiny, adorable fishing village filled with windmills, clog makers and baby animals. I am nottttt kidding. It is the most perfect place on earth. The windmill tour was really interesting, especially because I learned a lot of windmills are used to make peanut oil. Random, right?

I've always thought clogs are heinous (still do), but the Dutch love them and swear by their comfort and durability. Apparently. if I a cow steps on your foot and you're wearing your trusty clogs, your feet will be unharmed. Also, clogs can be super romantic because it's tradition for a man to wittle a special pair of clogs for his lady and leave them on her front doorstep. If in the morning the clogs are gone, they are engaged! But if the clogs are still on the doorstep, better luck next time.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Feliz en Cadiz

Celebrating Carnaval in Cadiz was an amazing experience. It is a beautiful city and I hope to return again soon. Carnaval can best be compared to a Spanish version of New Orlean's Mardi Gras with crazy costumes, parades, music and parties until dawn. We debated over our costume options and decided on some fun masks and gold fanny packs. I am always looking for an event where a fanny pack is socially acceptable because I think they are awesome... I'm all about the hands-free fun. And it's so much easier to dance when your purse isn't swinging around hitting everybody. (I lead a rough and serious life, I know.)

I highly highly highly recommend Carnaval in Spain. It lasts one week and signifies the "final chance to indulge" before the season of Lent. I think it really shows the spirit of Spanish people and how they love to celebrate life (aka fiestaaaa). Book all of your transportation and accomodations early because it is a really popular event and everything sells out quickly. Besos!


Monday, March 16, 2015

Babes in Costumes

Celebrations for Carnaval were a few weeks ago and one of the highlights (besides going to Cadiz for the huuuuge fiesta) was seeing all of my precious students dressed up at school! They are adorable in school uniforms, but even cuter in costumes so I pretty much had the best day ever.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Thoughts on being "brave"

Lately, I have been thinking about how I absolutely have hit the jackpot these past 18 months. I don't deserve this little dream bubble I've been living in. I get sweaty little hugs and am told I love you at least ten times a day, I am occasionally being paid to write (a total dream) and I am traveling across Europe to incredible places and meeting wonderful people on the reg.

Over and over people have told me how brave and amazing I have been to pack up and move. And I always just kind of stare at them perplexed because I don't feel brave or remotely amazing at all. And this isn't a humble brag like,  I'm so awesome I don't even KNOW IT because I'm just busy being courageous all day long.

No. That is not the case. 

I think it's all relative. You know what my idea of being brave is? Hearing a doctor diagnose you with severe depression when you haven't been able to figure out what the heck is wrong with you for months on end and then having to deal with it. You know what else I think is brave? Going to therapy and being really honest with a total stranger.  And these examples are just tiny little drops in the bucket of life compared to the truly brave people; the ones who are deployed, or dealing with terminal illness or grieving, etc. 

So, thank you for the compliments, but I am here to say that teaching sweet kids and traveling every other weekend isn't very brave at all. It's actually kind of selfish because I know it's been hard on my family to have me be so far away for two years. And I think they know how grateful I am, but sometimes I feel like I can't say thank you for being supportive enough.

I don't think you have to move abroad or start your own non-profit or build an orphanage by hand to be brave or amazing. Sometimes just loving your friend who is sick, or showing up when all you want to do is stay in bed or reaching out to someone you know is lonely is that bravest thing in the world for where you are that day.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Consejos aka Advice for Living in Spain

Lately, I’ve received some questions about moving abroad and while I feel like I'm just winging it over here, I wrote down a few things I have learned since I moved. If you have any other questions, send me an email and I will be happy to answer them! 

1. Only pack your absolute favorites. I had no idea how to pack to move abroad. I’m the girl who packed her ski clothes and then had to drag/kick/push my suitcases through Madrid Barajas Airport.

Other things I packed that I shouldn’t have: hot rollers, hair straightener, sound machine and tons of workout clothes. The electricity blew out my beloved sound machine and rollers. It also ruined my Clarisonic so I recommend buying spanish products with european plugs.

Odd things I am really happy I packed: flashlights, Ugg boots, my favorite oatmeal, almond oil and coconut oil. I’ve been asked a lot how to pack lately and the best advice I can give is pack good shoes and layers (ie: scarfs, tights, cardigans, blazers, etc.) 

2. Google talk. This is amazing. For .01 cents per minute you can talk internationally through the microphone on your computer. I used it to for an interview the other day with no problem. The glitch with FaceTime or Viber is that the other party has to have wifi, whereas with Google Talk you can call them whenever and it can also be used to call corporations (ie: ATT, British Airways, Citibank, etc). 

Say yes. To the 60 euro RyanAir flight to the beach. To the date. To the birthday party. You never know who you’ll meet or what could happen! One of my favorite weekend trips was planned over wine at 4 pm on a Friday. We left an hour later. 

4. Don't touch the fruit. It really angers Spanish grocers when you touch their fruit. I don’t know how you are supposed to know if it’s good if you can’t touch it, but whatever. I r-e-s-p-e-c-t the fruit grocers. 

5. Keep a journal or start a blog. I love writing so this is easy for me, but I would encourage everyone to record their experience! So much has happened: good, bad and hilarious that I don’t ever want to forget. Plus, I love journals because it’s cool to see how things evolve. So many times I find I write about something I’m worrying over only to have the prayer answered later. 

6. Bank accounts. I use BBVA and I love it. It’s been really easy, no surprise fees, ATM’s everywhere. 

7. Phone plan. I brought two unlocked iPhones, bought a SIM card from Vodafone and have a prepaid phone plan I pay online every month. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I recommend getting whatever phone provider your friends have so you can call them for free.  

8. Get involved. Run a marathon. Volunteer. Go to concerts. Sign up for Spanish classes ASAP. Take a Spanish cooking class. Try different festivals around the city (ie: tapapies in Lavapies). There is always something going on in Madrid. Spanish people love to celebrate!

9. Laugh. Don't take everything too seriously. Life abroad is weird and can be really frustrating at times, so try to smile and have a positive attitude. If it is annoying, it will probably make you laugh later. Or not, but regardless, I don't want to ever look back and feel like I wasted any precious time being worried or upset.

Por ejempo, I broke my nose on Thanksgiving and spent it in an ambulance. The perk of that situation was we got upgraded to first class on our flight to Germany the next day because I looked so pitiful in my little eye patch. In the photo below, I was dodging being hit by truckers on the side of the road because I couldn't find the VERY CLEARLY marked bike lane 50 meters away. Hey.... just keep smiling!