Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The End of The Journey

This is it. Tomorrow I will step foot on American soil. Although I have only been gone for one month, I am so excited to get back to my "normal" life. I am a creature of habit, so this trip was definitely out of my comfort zone haha. I want to use this post to share with you guys what I have been doing recently and what I look forward to upon my return.

Emily and I have spent the last week visiting local places before we leave. It has been a very relaxing time! May 1st was a holiday, so we did not have school. A few of us spent the day together. We went to Las Ramblas (a popular touristy shopping street), visited the Barcelona Cathedral, saw the statue of Christopher Columbus pointing to America, and visited a castle. It was a fun day with beautiful weather! Barcelona's soccer team had a match that night so the other team's fans were in town. Because this was a national holiday, no one had to work. This meant that there were a ton of fans from the other team. They had their own parade marching down the street with police escorts...we hid inside a KFC as they passed haha. Speaking of KFC, they are everywhere. I honestly can't believe how common the restaurant is here! We kept accidentally running into the parade of fans as we walked around. We also managed to find a rally of people demonstrating their support for Catalonia's independence. Catalonia is the province of Spain where Barcelona is located and they are trying to become a separate country from Spain.....we have heard a lot about it from our host families. Anyways, Wednesday was fun even though we kept running into masses of shouting people haha.

The weekend was also relaxing. I have access to the roof at my apartment, so a few friends came over on Saturday. We took snacks to the roof and just soaked up some sun while enjoying each others company and conversation. Saturday night, Emily and I traveled to a famous fountain. This fountain only performs shows on Saturday nights...it plays music and the water and lights are synchronized to each song. We arrived early so that we could find a place to sit. After waiting for over an hour, the first show of the night finally started. It was amazing!! And then it started to sprinkle rain. And then it started pouring rain. We had checked the weather earlier and there was a ZERO percent chance of rain. I happened to have on a light jacket with a hood but Emily did not. We were only able to watch about 7 minutes of the show before making a bee-line to the metro. I wish we would have taken a picture of ourselves that night. We were drenched. I think the score for this trip is now Mother Nature 14, Kristen and Emily 0.

On Sunday, I went with my host family to the beach. The weather was perfect and I spent my time working word search puzzles. I had forgotten how much I enjoy those things! I am thankful that I was able to return to the beach before I leave; it is such a relaxing place..except for the topless people...that still throws me off. Other than that factor, it is a pretty lovely place.

Monday was my last day at the school where I have been teaching. I was looking forward to an easy day where I might play games with my different classes all day as I said goodbye. I went to the office where I meet my teacher every morning and waited for her arrival. To my complete surprise, another teacher came into the office and informed me that Zoe would not be here today. Ohhh okay....I started to get nervous because I know that they do not have substitute teachers at this school. I asked if everything was okay, and the teacher told me that she would not be back the rest of the year! Woahhhhhh baby, what?!?! My teacher had quit! I was not able to say goodbye or thank you, and now I was here without a teacher! They sent another American student teacher with me and told us to teach the first class. Wow. Now if you read my last post, you are somewhat familiar with how these students act. As I walked into the classroom, I tried not to let these wild animals smell my fear. I had to tell them that their teacher would not be there today and that we would be teaching the class. What a hilarious experience. This was a true test of co-teaching. We worked together to get the students to complete the worksheet. The students actually behaved quite well for me. Even by using the simplest classrooms management strategies, I could tell a huge difference in their behavior. It worked!! I was so excited that we were able to make it through a lesson without anyone walking out of the classroom (although they tried me), cursing at each other, or simply not listening. Yayyyyyyy!!! For the rest of the school day, they were able to have other teachers use their planning period to cover my teachers classes. What an odd day. Nothing has gone as I have expected so far, so I don't know why I expected my last day at the school to be any different. I would say that it was a successful day overall....haha.

We have Tuesday to do anything that we want to do. Emily and I are going to eat at a pizza place and then hopefully get a little sun while napping on the roof (haha). It will be a very nice day. Oh and I have to pack. I somehow have to fit everything back into my suitcases.....it should be fun (not).

Since I am returning to the USA tomorrow, I wanted to share what I am looking forward to....
***Note: these are not the most important things that I am looking forward to (such as friends and family) but just a list of petty things that I miss :)
-Cheeseburger. We have a really long layover in the Miami airport. When we returned from the Dominican Republic last year, we went to a TGIFriday's in the airport and totally demolished a cheeseburger and fries. I have told a few friends on this trip about it and they want to join in. We will return to the restaurant when we arrive in Miami and we expect to eat like cavemen. What a glorious experience it will be.
-Shower. I don't remember if I told you all about my shower situation here. At my host house, I have a hose that sprays water. I have to kneel in a bathtub, hold the hose with one hand, and take my shower like this. I am looking forward to a nice standing shower with really hard water pressure. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
-Barefeet. I'm not talking about going to the mall without shoes, but I want to be able to walk around barefoot somewhere. Anywhere. It is considered rude to go barefoot inside a house here, so I always have to wear shoes. I just want to frolick around in my barefeet.
-Front Porch Swing. One of my favorite places when the weather is nice. I love to sit on the swing and read a book while listening to the sounds of summer!
-Big Cups. I look forward to getting a big cup to drink out of. I'm tired of getting embarrassed when I have to refill my cup 8 times at dinner because it is so tiny. Haha!
-Proper Summertime Attire. I want to wear shorts and flip flops without getting strange looks. If its hot, I want to wear shorts and flip flops-not a sweater and jeans. I found out that people here only wear flip flops if they are going to the beach (and many actually wear tennis shoes) and that it is unacceptable to wear them in the city. Oops. Learned that one the hard way.

While those things are minor and silly, I am so excited about them! There are plenty of other changes that I will have to adjust back to when I return. Thank you all for the loving support throughout my journey. It was amazing experience and I grew a lot as a person. Pray for our safety tomorrow as we embark on our journey home. Home. Such a sweet sweet word.

I will try to upload my pictures to Facebook as soon as I can. I'm not real sure when I will wake up after my return...haha. As long as I wake up before my graduation on Saturday, I'm good. What a crazy transition in life!! I also want you all to pray for my job placement as I begin applying for jobs. It is time for me to return back to the real-world and be a big girl. Ohhhh man what an exciting/nerve wracking time!!!!

Once again, thank you for everything! God Bless!!!

Thursday, May 2, 2013


Let me begin by telling you all that I had an amazing group of students at Greenwood High School earlier this semester while I was in the USA. The students that I have now in Spain are very different from what I am used to. For any of you with experience in education, I want you to imagine one of your least favorite students. Imagine a student who shows up late, talks whenever they want to, does not do homework, curses, talks back to the teacher, cheats off of others, and any other annoying things that they may do. Now imagine a classroom full of that type of student, all day, every day. It truly is amazing what the teachers try to deal with here. Most teachers just end up yelling at the students because they do not know what else to do.

The classroom management has been nothing less than shocking to witness. I came here hoping to learn some new strategies or activities. Instead, I have learned how vital classroom management is. You MUST establish rules and procedures AND enforce them! I feel as if the students do not have this, and that is why they act the way that they do. I am learning how important everything that I have been taught about teaching at WKU is in the classroom. Students go crazy without structure! And then that will make the teacher crazy (crazier)! Thankfully, I have been able to take a few students out of the classroom at a time and tutor them. That might be all that I can handle haha!

My supervising teacher gave me the opportunity to teach a business lesson for a few days instead of tutoring students in English. I organized an business research activity for the students to complete where they had to use the computer lab, create posters, present their information in English, and perform a small skit. They usually sit in the classroom and go through the book...so this was a very different experience for them. I was so impressed at how well they worked. I guess I was expecting them to be off-task during the project work time. I think they were excited to be out of the classroom and they wanted to do a good job for the American....haha. Each group presented their project to the class, and they all did an excellent job! Anddddd their classroom now has some pretty posters hanging up :)

They really are sweet kids, and I do not blame them for acting the way that they do. I thoroughly enjoy having conversations with them. I have to continuously remind myself that I am in a different culture which means there are a lot of differences. I have been treated with respect for the most part (this leads to another story for another time). I have grown as a teacher and as a person. I have a deeper appreciation for American schools and the American culture. I am also reminded of how much I care about my students back in the US. And maybe WKU just has a really awesome teacher education program that sets the bar very high for teachers? I came here expecting to learn, and I have, but I did not learn what I was expecting. I am appreciative for my experience and how it will carry over to my own classroom. I can't wait to visit my old students and tell them how awesome they are (and hopefully their heads won't get too big)!

I'll be home soon!

Sunday, April 28, 2013


This weekend I celebrated my 22nd birthday while in Rome. What kind of life am I living?! Emily and I will sometimes just stop and say, "Is this real life?" Rome was a very beautiful place and I am so thankful that we were able to visit! Fun fact: We later found out that we managed to book our trip to Rome on an Italian holiday. All of Italy was off of work on Thursday and Friday. Lucky us.

We arrived Thursday night and went straight to our hostel. We tried to pay upon arrival but the credit card machine was not working. We went to our room (a 6 bed female dorm) and met our roommates. There were two girls from Switzerland who were visiting Rome. There was also a girl from New Jersey who was studying abroad in London this semester. They were very friendly girls and all of them spoke fluent English (yayyyy). We were starving at this point, so we went to a nearby restaurant and ordered pizza. I'm not sure if it was because I was so hungry, but this pizza was awesome! By the way, my Spain students have realized that I like to use the word "awesome". They say it is a very American term. When I ask them how they know what awesome means, they start singing the song "Thrift Shop". Oh wow. American music is everywhere! My students learn the words to songs without even knowing the meaning of the words they are singing haha! This is just some food for thought for you guys!

Friday was my birthday and we went on a hop on hop off bus tour. Last weekend was freezing in Paris. This weekend was rainy in Rome. I would much rather sit on top of a double decker bus and be cold than sit up there and be wet. There were some breaks from the rain and we were thankful for that. We went to the Colosseum and went on a tour! Ahhhhhhhh it was so cool! I truly am fascinated with how amazing this city is. I thoroughly enjoyed walking through such a historical place and reading about all of the artifacts. We rode the bus around the city and got off at the Trevi Fountain. We each took turns throwing a coin into the fountain. This promises that you will return to the city of Rome. After waiting in rainy lines all day, we were pooped. We went back to the hostel and rested before going to dinner. We met up with the rest of the WKU girls and walked to a local family-owned restaurant. They make their own pasta at this place! I ordered pesto spaghetti and it was awesome!!! I also ordered a large water (I never get enough to drink) and they brought me a water bottle as long as my torso. That was awesome too! (I might start purposely over-using the word awesome).

Saturday consisted of going to the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. Salesmen greeted us as soon as we got of the bus and tried to offer us their tours. If you took a guided tour, you were able to bypass the long line outside and you had someone to tell you what everything was. We went to the introduction of one company and they were very convincing. They told us that the line was 4 hours long to get inside! If we paid 40€ we could skip the line AND have a guide. We thought that was just way to dang much money for this place. We decided to wait in the line. The problem was that we could not find the line. We kept walking around the Vatican and could not figure out which line got us inside! We also found out that the Pope was there performing a confirmation service to a big group of people. We finallyyyyyyy got in line and only waited 40 minutes. Then when we went inside to pay, we received a student discount for our age! I paid 8€ to go inside. I believe we made the right decision to wait in the line haha. This place was crowded. I can't even figure out how to explain this to you guys...maybe a mosh pit at a concert combined with the most intense Black Friday you have ever seen. It was crazy is what I'm getting at. We were shoulder to shoulder with people and squished together. To walk, we all basically looked like penguins...barely moving our feet while balancing against the bodies around you. I'm pretty serious when it comes to my personal space, but that was out the window at this place. We moved throughout the Vatican like this for almost 3 hours. I was so happy when we finally left the place and could breathe again. I wanted to go to the Pantheon, so we hopped back onto the bus. The bus dropped us off and we had to try to figure out how to walk to the Pantheon in the pouring rain. We could not find any of the streets on the map and we were worried about getting lost. We were wet and tired so we decided to go back to our hostel area and eat dinner. We ate at a nice little restaurant and I had some amazing tortellini! We went to the hostel after that and sat in the kitchen and talked to our hostel neighbors.

Sunday morning could be a scene directly out of a movie. I am not making up this part of our trip that I am about to share with you....
We tried multiple times over the weekend to pay for our hostel. Each time, they told us that the credit card machine was not working. Saturday evening, they told us that someone was coming at 11pm to fix it and we could pay when we were leaving the next morning. There was a shuttle bus that we needed to catch at 5:30 to make it to the airport on time (the next one didn't come until 6:30). We woke up before 4:30, packed, and made it to reception at 5:00. The credit card machine was not working. They told Emily to just to go an ATM on the street and withdrawal the cash to pay. She ran down the street and I went with her. She put in her debit card, entered the amount to withdraw, and then decided to do a different amount so she hit cancel. The machine said that the card would be returned within 30 seconds. We waited and waited and then a sign popped up that said she waited too long and she would have to contact her bank. The dang machine ate her debit card! She ran back to reception while I tried to push buttons and get the thing back out. Nothing was happening. The little bank would not open until 9:30 am. We were supposed to be almost to Barcelona by then! I ran back to reception where the desk clerk was trying to say that one of the others should try to withdraw money with their card. Heck no! We did not want to be without another debit card!! We told him we had to leave and that we would pay online. He could not authorize this so he had to call his boss. He could not get ahold of his boss. I just want you guys to imagine the pure panic we were experiencing at this point. He finally went downstairs to wake up his boss. It was getting way too close to 5:30 to stay any longer. We ran downstairs and met them on the front sidewalk. We had to convince them that they already had all of our information and credit card information online and we could pay like that. They seriously took forever to make a decision. The manager said it would be fine. I looked at my watch and it was 5:28. We had 3 blocks between us and the bus. We ran and thankfully made it to the bus before it left! We were sweating and out of breath but we made it!! The good news was that we made the bus and flight. The bad news was that Emily's debit card was still stuck in a machine in Rome. Later, she was able to contact her bank and cancel her card. This was another one of those moments where we just looked at each other and said, "Is this real life?"

I am thankful to be back at my apartment in Barcelona even if it is cold and rainy here. Also, I think that I caught a cold from being out in the rain all weekend. I am asking for prayers for our WKU group as we finish up our last week here in Barcelona. We are all very ready to get back to the comfort and convenience of America haha. I hope all is well back in Kentucky!!!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


This past weekend I had the privilege of traveling to Paris! We arrived on Friday afternoon and made it to our hostel successfully. Our hostel turned out to be located around the corner from Moulin Rouge. Lets just say that we were near a very interesting street with a lot of adult shops... We took the advice of the woman at the front desk and went to a nearby French restaurant. We were not sure what to order....I ended up with steak (I requested well-done haha), Emily had steak with stinky cheese, and Christy had a salad with stinky cheese and ham (I ordered the right thing for the first time in my life!!!). After that, we went back to the hostel to rest for the night.

The hostel was small (we are in Europe haha). We had a private room with a bunk bed and a cot. We also had our own bathroom! If one of us needed to walk across the room, we would have to take turns standing in the correct place. It was very tiny and the walls were thin, but we were thankful to have a roof over our heads!

Saturday we decided to take a hop on hop off bus tour. It was designed so that you were able to see all of the big things in the city and you could get off wherever you wanted! Buses came every 15 minutes so we could stay as long as we wanted. The bus was a double-decker bus; I have always wanted to ride one of these! I was so excited for our tourist trip around Paris, but there was a problem...Paris was cold....really cold. We checked the weather before we left and it was supposed to be 60 degrees. I thought that was a pretty comfortable temperature for walking around a town! We all packed very lightly (we only took a carry-on bag) and none of us brought enough clothes...I wore a tank top, shirt, cardigan, jeans, and a light scarf and I'm pretty sure my lips were blue. Paris 60 degree weather is VERY different from Kentucky 60 degree weather. Our teeth chattered the whole time. Sitting on top of the bus in the wind probably did not help the situation very much, but we HAD to sit there to get the good pictures!

We got off of the bus at the Arc de Triumph and the Eiffel Tower. It was so unreal to see these famous monuments in person! They were hugeeeeeee! I really could not believe that I was looking at it in person. We took a lot of pictures and tried to soak in the reality of what we saw. After the tour, we returned to our hostel and put on every piece of clothing that we had brought. Then we went out to dinner. This time I had duck, green beans (I think they were French cut haha) and potatoes! It was a great dinner! When we were walking home I stopped at a vendor to get a famous crepe. Oh my goodness it was awesome! It was like a thin pancake/waffle and you could choose the topping. I had Nutella with mine. I'm so thankful I tried one and I need to figure out how to make one at home (cough cough Kelsey).

Sunday morning we went and visited Notre Dame. They were having mass, but they allowed visitors to walk on the sides during the service (talk about a distraction!). This place was beautiful! There were many stained glass windows (which I love). I was also able to see the gargoyles outside!!! We stopped by a cheese shop on the way home to try the famous French cheese. As soon as we walked into the shop, the smell hit us. We sampled a piece of cheese and (of course) none of us liked it. We also tasted some wine that might as well have been gasoline. I finally just ordered a coffee at a cafe (the last thing I hadn't tried in Paris). I was given one sugar cube with my coffee and I just started laughing. I politely told the server that I was going to need more sugar. I don't know how many he gave me, but I put them all in. I strongly believe that you cannot put too much sugar in coffee :) and it was delicious!!!!

Paris was a very beautiful city. All of the buildings were very pretty and I felt like I was in a different world. It was a nice place to visit, but I was once again reminded of how much I love my old Kentucky home. I miss nature. This sounds cliché, but all I see these days is buildings (the city life). I don't think I was made for big city life haha! I need trees and grass at least!!! I am having a great time and I am enjoying Europe, but there is no way I could live here (I can hear your relief). 

My birthday is Friday and I keep forgetting about it. I am going with some friends to Rome for the weekend and I am SO excited!!!!! There are a lot of things that I want to see there. I am also looking forward to some legit Italian food (yummmmmmmm)! And gelato! This is going to be one unique birthday. Instead of celebrating with my favorite set of twins (Kara and Karinne-they have the same bday) or making birthday wishes with Maggie, I will be in ROME. But don't worry, I plan on walking the streets of Rome while singing "22" by Taylor Swift. 

p.s. Maggie and Morgan- prepare for a day of birthday wishes upon my return ;)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boyz II Men

Boys. Boys boys boys. My dad always says that boys are trouble....
Right now I am tutoring students ages 12-18. Most of my students are boys. Boys are unique. They learn differently and they will do almost anything to impress you (at least these students do). They definitely keep me on my toes and laughing.

Yesterday my teacher had to leave school early for an appointment. She said that the students would be on the patio (enclosed soccer field) and they would be supervised by some other people but that I needed to stay and sit with them. There was a man in the beginning who said that if they went to the classroom and got their things quietly, they could spend the class period outside. They acted perfectly (very unusual) and the man said that they could go to the patio. We went downstairs and out to the patio to play. I sat down to watch and realized that the man had left. I was here alone supervising 25 twelve year old boys. Oh my gosh. I was worried, but I knew that if they kept occupied with soccer that we would make it until class was dismissed and we could go home. I was talking to a student who loves to speak in English when I saw a group of boys gathered around one boy. The kind of gathering when you know that something is wrong. I immediately stood up and started walking towards them. When I got closer, I could see that blood was pouring out of the boys nose. Oh my gosh. These boys are 12 years old, so it is quite difficult to have a conversation with them in English. I rushed him to the water fountain where he stood over the drain and kept washing his face off. He had been hit in the nose with a ball. This was just my luck. What the heck is the protocol when something like this happens here?! I couldn't touch him and he could not understand what I was saying, so I just kept pointing to the water haha! I hate nose bleeds. I can never remember if you are supposed to lean forward or tilt back. Luckily, we had a drain to catch all of the blood. How long to stupid nose bleeds last?! I've never had one, so I was beginning to wonder if the kid was going to bleed to death! I asked one of my students to go get some napkins and his reply was "We don't have those in Spain". What?! Lol I was finally able to act out stuffing tissues up my nose and one of my students ran and got some toilet paper. In the end, the kid was okay (thankfully lol) and so was I (haha). I do not handle bloody things well, so I am glad that I did not pass out or anything (wouldn't that have been a sight to walk up on).

A few friends and I were able to travel to La Sagrada Familia (google it) and we had a great time. It was sooooooo beautiful! We had to take the metro to get there. This was my first time ever riding a metro. I was so thankful when we made it there successfully! What a neat place!!! We were able to pay for an english audio tour. We just walked around with headphones and typed in the number of the location where we were. It was very nice. After we left, we walked down a couple of blocks just to see the place. On our way back, I saw a small souvenir shop that looked nice. We went inside and they had so many cute tourist items. The man who worked there kept calling us beautiful in Spanish. I am easily embarrassed when it comes to these things, so I immediately felt myself blush. I was standing with my friends when the man came up to me and gave me a big kiss on the cheek. Oh my gosh. You all can only imagine how rosy my cheeks were......I could not believe it. The girls were cracking up. I thought that Emily had put him up to it, but she said she didn't (I'm still skeptical).

Ohhhhhh Spain. Ohhhhhh Spanish men and boys. I never know what to expect from them and they always seem to find a way to embarrass me.  "It's all part of the experience."

More Differences

I received a very passive e-mail from my granny expressing that she had not heard anything from me since Saturday....I apologize to any of you that have been sitting on the edge of your seat waiting for me to post ;)
There are a few more differences that I forgot to talk about in my last post.

Driving.  Of course the driving here is very different.  Cars are tiny and so are the driving lanes.  But what I did not know was how expensive it is to drive here.  To obtain a driver´s license, they have to pay $1500-$2000 for a license.  Before you can get a license, you have to take ten driving courses with an instructor at over $100 each.  You have to pay for a parking pass for wherever you want to leave your car.  My family parks their car underneath the school.  The rules for parking here are very strict and expensive.  They also have a lot of toll-booth´s.  I definitely remember when we had a .50 toll expense to drive to Bowling Green when I was younger.  But the tolls here are around $7.00!  My family has an electronic device that they set on their dash and there is a lane at the toll-booth´s that automatically read it (like a credit card for tolls).

Underground.  The buildings here amaze me.  I thought that the school we are at was only six floors tall.  That was until the day that Emily and I decided to search for the swimming pool.  The teachers told us to keep going down the stairs because it was below the ground floor.  We went to the ground floor and started to descend.  We went down one flight of stairs and did not see anything.  We went down another flight and found some empty rooms.  We went down another floor and found a kitchen.  Then, after going four floors below the ground, we found the swimming pool and gym.  I really can´t believe their usage of space here.  Roads even go underground quite often (a lot of tunnels). 

Technology.  Maybe it is the family that I am staying with and just the school that I am teaching at, but there is not a very widespread use of technology (compared to the US).  My family´s apartment here has one small TV and that is in the parents bedroom.  They do not play video games or surf the internet at night.  At my school, there is a chalkboard in each classroom.  I have only seen three ActivBoard´s in the secondary section of the school (this is an interactive board that is very common in American schools, usually located in every classroom).  These ActivBoards are located in three different classrooms and teachers have to reserve it in advance to use it.  I was shocked when I saw that all teachers use a chalkboard in their classroom!

Raw Food.  I know I have mentioned before that I do not eat anything that looks like it might still be alive.  I have alwayssssss been like this.  When my host family cooks, they do not cook the food all the way.  When my real family cooks, they basically cook food until it falls apart. This has been very interesting for me.  My host mother was preparing salmon the other day and asked me if I liked my salmon cooked.  I thought, what kind of question is this?!  Of course I like my salmon cooked!  Haha :)  It turns out that they like to barely cook the outside and leave the inside raw.  It tasted fine (at least it wasn´t red meat, right?).  But then for dinner one night, my host mother prepared hamburgers.  She asked me how I liked my hamburger cooked, so I said well done (hahaha).  She served me dinner and I began to eat.  When I cut into the hamburger, I swear I think it mooed at me.  It was completely red on the inside (RED not pink!).  I did my best to eat it, but I eventually just started eating the outside of it. My stomach and I both (surprisingly) survived!

Body Temperature.  Sometimes, I am hot-natured.  That is just part of who I am.  But I usually consider myself a pretty normal temperature (lol).  I do not know why, but there is a huge difference in how hot I think it is compared to the locals.  I will go outside in a t-shirt, shorts, and flip flops (I´m American and there is no point in hiding it).  But when I look at all of the locals walking down the street, they are in long pants, shirt, sweater, jacket, and scarf.  It´s amazing.  I really do not understand.  Maybe they will warm up soon (hopefully).  I am not even going to try to dress like a European (I would have a heat stroke and die).

The differences are hilarious to me, but it is all part of being engrossed into a new culture.  My students are funny and they LOVE to say hello to me in English.  I hope that Spring is in full bloom at home!!!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

First differences

Okay so I knew that Spain/Europe would be different, but it is kind of hilarious how different it is from the United States. I thought I would share some of the first differences I have noticed.

  • Everything is smaller. And by everything, I mean EVERYTHING. Cars are tiny but that is because they have to be. If you had a car bigger than a mini two-door thing, you would not be able to drive or park here. Lanes are very narrow. So narrow that they make the 31-W Bypass lanes look huge! A big car would not fit here!!! The parking spots are also tiny haha! 
  • And then let's talk about the elevators. Yes I am very thankful to have an elevator at my apartment so I am NOT complaining, I am simply sharing some of my daily life with you :). We all know that elevators are not comfortable for chlostorphobic people (that would be me). So if an elevator gets full, it can make you feel a little uneasy. I am not exaggerating when I say that the elevators here are tiny. I can put my hands on my hips and both of my elbows will be touching a wall. Now I would like for you to picture at least four adults standing together in one of these things while talking about the day....lol I am learning that I have to let go of my personal space (at least in an elevator). 
  • Cups. Cups are small. I really don't know how people here do not dehydrate and kill-over. It amazes me. Their cups are about 10 oz and they only fill it half way. AND that's all that they will drink for an entire meal! I will refill my cup like 4 times and still be thirsty (they probably think I am similar to a camel...). I also carry my water bottle with me to class. My students actually asked me about it the other day. It turns out that this is very weird and uncommon. When they asked me why I carried it, the only reply I could think of was "umm because I get thirsty?" They just gave me confused looks. 
  • Housing is tiny but I think that is normal for a big city. I'm sure that apartments are expensive here. It is just very different from the houses that we have in the states. And because of this, they do not keep extra things. The children have minimal toys and there are no junk rooms or things in storage. There is one small TV in the apartment and it is in the parents bedroom. They kept apologizing to me about it and offered to move it for me. When I told them that I didn't really watch much TV they said ahhhhh you are not a normal American are you? Haha!
  • Olive oil. Who knew that there was a difference, right?! I didn't until I came here! My host father's parents make their own olive oil and sell it. People here literally put olive oil on everything. When we have toast for breakfast, we put olive oil on it. When we have fish, we put olive oil on it. When we have tomatoes with goat cheese, we put olive oil on it. Ham sandwiches...olive oil. Think of it as our mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, honey mustard...it is THE condiment here!
  • Supermarkets are not common. On our block there is a bakery, a butcher, a flower shop, a clothing store, coffee shop, magazine/newspaper shop, fruit and vegetables store, and I don't know what all else. It really is amazing how fresh everything is. Preservatives are not common and people buy their groceries as they need them. Speaking of food....some of you know that I love chocolate. Like really really love chocolate. And I had no idea what America had been holding back my entire life. I tried some local chocolate the other day and thought that I might be sitting by Jesus in heaven (not as cool, but close). Wow wow wow. I was informed that we put preservatives (wax) in our chocolate in the United States, but here they do not put any preservatives. I mean come on, I was a chocolaholic in the US so it is a good thing that I do not live here. 
  • Lotion. Okay so the lotion really isn't different here, but I'm a dummy and I thought I would tell you what happened. I wanted to put lotion on my legs the other night so I went into the bathroom because I knew that I had seen some in there. It was white and had a pump top, so I assumed that it was the lotion. I was finishing rubbing it in on the second leg when one of my little sisters came in. She had a surprised look on her face and threw her hands out, "nooooooooo, that is for your hair!" She immediately started laughing. Oops. I guess I was conditioning my legs. I knew that it felt a little weird, but hey I'm across the world I figured the lotion should be different!
  • Food. Duh the food is different Kristen! I tried some new food today....I felt very brave. It has been at least 6 hours since I ate the new food and I'm still alive, so I would consider it a success. We went to a restaurant on the beach today and I let my host parents do the ordering. We started with mussels. I know we have these in the US, but this girl does not eat things that look like they are still alive. I ate one right off of its shell. I would compare it to picking a slug up off of the sidewalk and trying to chew it before swallowing it. I'll stop there. Next they brought us fried squid. It looked like mini onion rings so I was pretty excited until they told me what it was. Again, kinda chewy. And thennnnn they brought out fried baby squid. Even though these little guys were fried, I could still see their legs (tentacles? Whatever they are called). I ate baby squid. It all worked out best when I did not think about what I was eating and I would just swallow quickly. 
  • So these are just a few of the big differences I have experienced so far. There are about a billion more hahahaha! I am adjusting well though, so no worries!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Important people!

How could I forget to tell you all about the most important people who are here?! My family in Spain is awesome!!! They are probably the cutest family on the block...seriously. The mom and dad both speak English and they are active people (the triathlons for fun type). And then I have two little sisters.....they are 5 and 6 years old and the most adorable things I have ever seen. The youngest one has glasses and speaks only a few words in English. The oldest one is very good at English for her age and she tries really hard to have English conversations with me (which I LOVE). I brought them both a Big Red stuffed animal and a WKU red towel....you take a minute and think about trying to explain in simple terms to kids of a different first language what both of these items mean....IT WAS DIFFICULT. One of the kids thought that the towel was for the beach (she held it up and it only covered her torso haha). The mother had to help me explain what a mascot was, and then she danced and cheered with the red towel haha! I also gave them a book (in English) where big red visits different places on WKU's campus...we are going to practice their English by reading the book together :)

The day after I gave the girls their presents, they both took their Big Red to school! It was so sweet!! I walked by their room today while they were at school and saw Big Red resting on each of their beds wrapped in the red towel.....too sweeeeeet!

My teacher that I am with at the school is unique....she is very sassy and short tempered which is always hilarious to watch. She has me constantly laughing! My teacher is from Greece and she went to college in England....
I want you to picture a Greek woman with dyed red hair saying the following in a Greek/Spanish accent, "Where did I lay my bloody keys?!"   I don't know why, but every single time she uses the word 'bloody' in a sentence, I immediately start laughing out loud. I am going to have to learn to control myself so that I am not a distraction. I think that I am going to learn a lot from this woman!

Another important person that is here is my friend Emily. For those of you who don't know, Emily and I have been friends at WKU for the past few years. She is a great friend and I am SO thankful that she was also able to come on this trip. We only live a couple of blocks from each other here in Barcelona. We are both teaching secondary English at the school, so somehow (God) we have the same planning periods and lunch schedule. Sometimes our classes even combine! It really is unbelievable how it all worked out because I have not seen most of the student teachers since we left the airport. Emily also has a great family that is very nice to me and invites me to go places with them. I am so thankful for all of the prayer warriors who prayed for our trip, IT WORKED hahaha. I am already learning so many things and I know that this is going to be an awesome experience!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Beginning

   I MADE IT!  Haha after traveling for what felt like forever, I have finally reached my new home in Barcelona! I will try not to use too many exclamation points!

   I knew it would be beautiful here, but ohhhh myyyy goodnessssss. The buildings and the people are BOTH gorgeous! The children are so sweet and I love them all haha. We arrived Tuesday morning at 6:30 am Barcelona time (for a reference, I am 7 hours ahead of you guys). My body has been so confused since my arrival.

   We were dropped off at the school once we made it to town and our families came to pick us up. My family immediately found me and greeted me in the Spanish way....thankfully our trip coordinator warned us of this when we arrived at the airport. You kiss the persons right cheek and then their left cheek (just like in the movies!). This custom is definitely going to take some getting used to. I think a lot of the Spaniards know that Americans do not normally do that. Because of this, there is an awkward hovering time when I meet people where we decide if we are going to kiss or not. It was already weird enough for me and now I have to worry about accidentally kissing someone when it is not expected of me?! Hahaha oh well, "it's all part of the experience".

   I do not know when to sleep or eat....but I am slowly adjusting. I think that the host families were told that Americans eat a lot....they have been offering us constant food and extra portions (it is really funny to all of us). The diet is very different here, but it is good. My host mother made me her "special sandwich" for lunch on my first day. We went to a local shop and bought fresh bread to make the sandwiches. She then put olive oil (they put it on EVERYTHING), tomato paste, and an egg on it and I actually liked it! I am so thankful that I am not as picky of an eater as I used to be (which is good because I have already eaten a few unidentified meats).

   My "neighborhood" is really cute. There are a lot of small speciality shops throughout the surrounding blocks. Everything is located so close. Because of this, everyone walks everywhere. I am only one block from the school which is so convenient!!! A lot of the people know each other which I think is cool for such a large city.

   My first day at school was Wednesday. I mostly have classes of students who are learning English. For the first few weeks, I will be working individually with students on their English speaking skills. My teacher said that a lot of our students are very interested in business and she wants me to prepare anything I want to share with them. The school we are all placed at is half private and half public. All of the students wear uniforms and it is a catholic school. We began the day with prayer in each classroom. I really enjoyed meeting the students. They have been treating the American student teachers like we are superstars (I might start offering my autograph hehe). I'm not very good at handling so much attention, but the kids are obsessed with having an American in their classroom! We have been told to only speak English to them so that they can practice (no problem with me!). However, many students tried rattling something off in Catalan or Spanish to see if I understood and then they would start giggling. Teenagers haha. I have 13-16 year old students. I have never taught middle school students, so it is interesting to see how they act. Over the course of my first day at the school, my teacher kicked 6 students out of her class. Students act very differently here and I am closely watching how teachers handle their classroom management.

   A lot of my students really did practice their English with me.....
"I like you. You are nice. You are cute."   < you all should have seen my face, and it happened more than once. I don't think middle schoolers can withhold their thoughts...
"Do you work at Kentucky Fried Chicken?"   < thank you Colonel Sanders for making an impression around the world.
"What kind of music do American's listen to?"   < you try explaining that one...
I even had students trying to get me to repeat sentences in Catalan. I would not do it because I did not know what they were saying and then they began to beg. That is when I knew it could not have been a good sentence. I finally whipped out my dictionary and they stopped asking...I don't know why ;)
 I thought that my college friends were crazy about coffee until I arrived here. EVERYONE drinks coffee. We even have a coffee break halfway through the morning at school! My lunch break is at 2:30 in the afternoon, so I hope I can adjust to that soon haha! It is currently 11:00pm on Wednesday...as I finish this I hear many car horns which means that Barca won their soccer game tonight :)

   I hope all is well with you guys in Kentucky!!!