Teaching English in Chile

Before graduating college in May of 2018, I was dead set on leaving the United States for a while. I don’t mean to hyperbolize but it feels like the sky is actually going to collapse in on itself at any moment and the world will end in a big flash when you live so close to Washington D.C. (again, not to be dramatic or anything). This was quite possibly exacerbated by the fact that I also studied environmental science and policy… If you’ve been following the news/ don’t live under a rock or in a soundproof cave far far away, you know just as well as I do that there’s quite a bleak outlook for the future of the environment and its inhabitants.

Imagine studying that every single day and trying not to go insane or lose all hope in humanity.

It was time for a break, a change of pace. I surely got that when I moved to Panguipulli in the south of Chile. I didn’t just end up here though; there was no grand plan to specifically journey to this remote little town on the other end of the earth. I’m here in Chile teaching English through a program called English Opens Doors that is operated by the Ministry of Education of Chile (sounds super legit doesn’t it?). It’s one of many options you can find online to teach English abroad, but in my opinion it’s probably the best.

Let me elaborate.

There are TONS of programs through many organizations and nonprofit entities that I can talk further about in another blog post if you’re interested. However, I applied for only two specific programs abroad teaching English. There are programs through both the Chilean and Spanish governments, as well as Colombian (it’s currently on hold right now though). Personally, I prefer these opportunities because they are secure, but they’re volunteer positions, so you only receive a stipend, not a salary. I also looked into the website Workaway, which are also volunteer gigs that you have to organize yourself. The Visa application is usually really complicated though and applying completely on your own can be a major pain in the butt.

Additionally, I don’t have a TEFL certificate, and no part of me wanted to pay for any more classes after I walked across that stage and got my degree (at least for a little bit ahhh GRAD SCHOOL).

This ruled out a few options, but not the government programs! I wanted programs that were established, in countries that spoke Spanish, and didn’t require a program fee or some extra costs other than a plane ticket.

So, in the end I chose two programs, one to Spain and one to Chile, both through their governments. I’ve already mentioned the program in Chile, but the one involved with the Spanish government is called “Cultural Ambassadors: North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain.” Don’t let the official sounding name fool you; this program is not as legitimate as it appears. It may be good news to some of you that you can apply for this easily by simply getting all your documents. It’s first come, first serve for whoever makes an account and nearly anyone qualifies. They don’t even interview the potential volunteers.

For me, this is a huge red flag. It just feels WAY too much like voluntourism.

The program to Spain is not merit based. They don’t give priority to those who have previous experience teaching, likely because you’re only a teaching assistant. It’s a longer time commitment too (roughly nine months) and like everything else in Spain, your stipends come really painfully slow or not at all according to many reviews from volunteers. You’re also 100% responsible for finding housing, transport to your school, and taking care of your general day to day life. It’s still a really great opportunity if you have the time and quite a bit of money saved up, but it wasn’t for me this time. I got accepted to the program, six months after I had applied and already accepted this position in Chile I’m currently serving.

Why did I choose English Opens Doors then? From the start, this program was obviously better managed (just look at the difference in their websites).

 

 

 

 

I applied to EODP as we call it for the VS3 volunteer service, which is a four-month gig but there are other options for longer and they go throughout the year. The application process was straight forward and thoughtful, giving me a bit more confidence that I’d be in better hands. It was a three-step process including a skype interview where I was also able to ask questions. The program promised placement with a host family and a small stipend to cover classroom costs.

Now that I’m here in the thick of it, I can’t tell you how happy I am about my decision. Besides Chile being an amazing country (which I will absolutely get into in further blog posts), it’s also a great program where I have my own classroom, write my own lessons with the guidance of a head English teacher, and make a real difference for kids who would probably have never gotten this extra help with their language skills. My school is a bright, sky blue building in the middle of the city center in Panguipulli called Escuela Maria Alvarado Garay. Every day, I teach 5th through 8th grade different lessons on speaking and listening in English (I’ve even gotten to teach about environmental science!!). I can’t say every day is a walk in the park, but I have some remarkably curious and inspiring students (who also say some pretty hilarious things). I live with a host family in this beautiful town situated between two volcanoes, mountains and it’s own lake. Just simply walking outside for an hour or two reaffirms to me why I studied environmental science because it’s so naturally stunning. Did I mention there are dogs everywhere too?!?!?!

I’m getting a bit off topic, in the same way my students try to change the subject of class each day. I learned how to deal with this and other classroom problems as well through a one-week orientation with EODP when I arrived in Santiago in July. English Opens Doors helped me with everything, from getting my Visa to arriving at my hostel safely, to learning how to manage tough classroom management and life in Chile. Of course, this program is not perfect. A lot of your experience depends on where in Chile you’re placed, but also your willingness to say “screw it” and try something new, or completely embarrass yourself for your students. I’d say daily, I think to myself “this is so freaking hard oh my god,” but equally I am still in awe to have this opportunity. I still have a ton of love for my students, who I frequently call “mis amores,” and the community around me. “I’M IN CHILE. MY FEET ARE STANDING IN CHILE, ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE EARTH!” This feeling hasn’t faded, and I don’t think it ever will

P.S. Huge, shameless plug → the application period just opened for the next round of volunteer terms and I highly HIGHLY recommend taking a look if you have any interests. I’ve attached the link here.

Also, here is the link to the Spanish program.

Making a Meal: Roasted Dill Salmon, Sweet Potato, & Brussels Sprouts

One of the easiest AND delicious meals I’ve made in awhile, this series of recipes will blow you away. It’s so simple, but so good, I don’t know how to explain it.

I’m going to give you these recipes in paragraphs rather than my normal style just to keep it short and to the point. I highly recommend reading before you start cooking, but you do you, maybe you like living on the edge.

This meal is perfect for two for dinner, or just for one loner (like myself) for a lunch and a dinner

So that I don’t get sued, and so that you’re fully aware, the salmon recipe is not mine. I’ll post a hyperlink and give credit where it is due because I’m not a thief (except when I’m stealing your heart with my cooking…. that was such a bad joke just lock me up now).

For the sweet potato:

  • Preheat the oven to 400F degrees and lightly oil a small roasting pan (maybe a tablespoon of oil). Make sure the bottom is coated completely. Take a sweet potato and peel that sucker. Rinse it. Grab a cutting board and cut it into small chunks (not like super small, but smaller than a golf ball). Put the sweet potato chunks into the roasting pan. Sprinkle salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes all over those suckers (more salt than anything). Put them in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, shaking the pan once of twice to turn em. You should be able to easily cut through them with a butter knife, that’s how you know they are ready.

For the brussels sprouts:

  • Preheat oven, if not done already, to 400F degrees and again, lightly oil a small roasting pan with a tablespoon of oil, fully coating the bottom. Take about a 1/2 pound fresh brussels sprouts, rinse them in a colander, and cut off the stems of each little, delicious sprout. Then, slice them in half and place each half flat side down in the pan. Try to pour a little oil on top, then sprinkle with salt, black pepper, and garlic powder. Cook them in the oven, shaking the pan occasionally, for about 15 minutes, until the sprouts are browned, even slightly blackened on the outside.

For the dill salmon: 

The original recipe is at this link here. I am just reiterating it for convenience, but it’s not my recipe!

  • Preheat the oven to 475F degrees, after you’ve cooked the veggies above. Take some fresh dill and chop up about two handfuls of it (you should take the “leaves” off the stems and put them in a pile, then take a knife and continually chop through them). Put a few large chunks of butter into a roasting pan, along with the dill. Place in the oven and let cook until that amazing mixture is sizzling. Take out the pan and place the salmon skin side up (if there’s no skin, just whatever side is good). Cook for 4 – 6 minutes. Grab the pan out of the oven (peel the skin off the salmon if there is any). Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then flip, and sprinkle again, and place back into the oven for an additional 3 – 5 minutes.
  • Serve it with some lemon juice and fresh slices!!

And that’s it! This ridiculously easy series of recipe makes an amazing meal for you and a date, or just for you! Treat yo self.

 

Power Hour Salad

Alright, listen up. You have a limited income (probably, if you’re a college student and literally go around singing about not wanting to check your bank account), and you may not eat very healthy all the time because of it. That’s ok though, we are going to change that.

Making this salad is just another little step you can take to eat healthy and not be broke at the same time. It is vegetarian, but it’s packed with protein and good shit (I want to stress that a protein-packed vegetarian meal is not an oxymoron. It’s absolutely a thing). So, to not bore you further, here it goes, the Power Hour Salad.

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of cooked grains such as quinoa, barley, etc.** (I used the “Super Grains” blend from Whole Foods, it’s pretty dope and relatively cheap)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 can of chickpeas, drained, rinsed and DRIED!! with a paper towel**
  • A few slices of a red onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 – 3 handfuls of mixed spring greens or baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup (of handful) of cherry or grape tomatoes (I really love zima, they are orange and sweet and ugh so good)
  • 1/3 of a large cucumber or 1 baby cucumber, seeded and chopped (explanation at the bottom)**
  • 1 spoonful of hummus, whatever you like (I love this hummus, it’s magical)
  • 2-3 spoonfuls crumbled feta cheese

Optional Salad Dressing**:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, the greener the better
  • Juice of half a lemon (use the other half for tea or lemon water. Be pretentious, not wasteful)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 – 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt, really to your liking
  • Black pepper, again whatever you like

Instructions:

  1. Just to help you out if you’re new to this, cut your red onion and your garlic right now. All the other veggies can be cut later, but if you want to you can cut them now. It saves you a lot of time if you follow the directions in the ingredients list first.
  2. Make sure you do this first or ahead of time; cook your grains. Pick something like quinoa and read the package to tell how long it will take to cook it. Usually, it will take you about 30 minutes to  cook them from start to finish (aka from putting the pot on the stove till the point you let them sit). If you do choose to cook quinoa, try to make sure you rinse it through a fine mesh strainer before cooking. So, get that water boiling before you do anything else.
  3. Once you have begun cooking your grains, get a frying pan, heat it to medium-high heat, and add the 1 tablespoon olive oil. Next, add the onion to the pan and cook until they have a slight yellow look to them (but not browned).
  4. Now to add the garlic and chickpeas! Stir it on up and cook for another two to three minutes. Take off the heat and place into a bowl.
  5. If you didn’t already, cut your veggies!
  6. Take out a large bowl and add the salad greens you are using. Start to assemble everything by adding the tomatoes, cucumber, chickpeas and onions (not all of them, save some and make a pita wrap!), the cooked grains, hummus, and feta cheese.
  7. If you would like to add a simple homemade salad dressing, keep reading. Otherwise, mix it all up and you’re good to go!!
  8. For the salad dressing: Get a small bowl. Whisk together the oil, lemon, and honey. Next add the oregano, salt, and pepper. Mix it all together and there you have it! You may choose to add other herbs or maybe vinegar if there wasn’t enough lemon juice. It’s really whatever you prefer.

Side Notes:

**It may be easier to make a whole cup of cooked grains and reserve the rest for another recipe!! That’s what I do.

**You need to make sure whenever you fry anything with oil that you limit the amount of water in contact with the item. Please make sure after you rinse the chickpeas, you dry them too to prevent yourself from being burned

**To seed a cucumber, you cut it in half lengthwise, or hot dog style as we said in like second grade. Take a spoon and scoop out all those seeds you see in the center. The, place each half flat side down and slice. They should look like little half moons or smiley faces I guess? Maybe frowny faces if you’re that kind of person.

**I also think this salad is great with tzatziki, which is like a yogurt sauce that is so delicious, but it’s a little expensive and takes awhile to make at home. I prefer it though.

Oddly Dating: Lauren and A Disturbing Lack of Apple Cider Donuts

There are so many other things I need to be doing right now. If I look at my planner right now, I’m probably going to have to pencil in when I’m allowed to breathe….. Yet here I am!

Let me just say, I am very disappointed with this previous autumn season. From the heat, to the cold, to the heat again, or the leaves only changing color now at the end of November instead of early October, it was a what the heck moment each day. No one was all that excited for Halloween; I didn’t even carve a pumpkin! The biggest travesty though was the absence, the whole in my heart, that was the lack of apple cider donuts that were consumed.

Not for lack of trying though. Almost every day I checked the local bakery near my house in Columbia, leaving with nothing but emptiness in my soul (I mean stomach, but they are basically one in the same) each time I left. All of this culminated to the morning I woke up in College Park and said “f*ck this, I need them NOW.” Scrolling through my phone, I found a farm; thirty minutes away from me were, apparently, the best damn looking cider donuts in the region.

Naturally, I had to invite the one person I had complained to about the situation, and the person who 100% suffered as much as I did without these delicious explosions of fall goodness in ya mouth; Lauren was my date for sure.

Before I explain this surely saddening story, I must say that Lauren is easily one of my best friends, but also one of the most amazing people I know. She’s a kind and generous soul, who is sarcastic as hell, and comforting when you need it most. Lauren won’t hesitate to tell you she’d rather be drinking a glass of wine and petting a dog than dealing with your shit though. Her hobbies are the coolest on this earth (SHE’S A CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHER).

All my friends are more talented than me, that’s just the rule I guess. I sit there in awe at how much they have their shit together in terms of their passions, and then laugh my ass off at how much we all can’t get it together for real, graded classes.

Truly, I couldn’t have asked for a better someone to better suffer wit. After that thirty minute drive to the little farm we had found, and about fifteen minutes of searching the shop, “all the apple cider donuts were sold by noon today, sorry” was the end product, told quite blatantly by the girl behind the cash register. I was about to lose my shit (internally I did for sure, I’ve never cussed so much), but then I realized this was a cute venue. A very cute miniature orchard was the perfect place to take basic white girl autumn photos and pretend like that’s what we meant to do in the first place.

Lauren is going to hate me for posting these, but she’s a babe so I have to. They’re great.

We pretended to pick apples, but there were bees around the apples as we found out half way through photos. I was quite excited as you can see.

 

and then for the best part. Me and my artsy self (not really artsy I just try hard to be), started taking pictures of a barn, and specifically this cute as heck cat we found roaming around the farm. They were great photos, or so I thought. After reevaluating, I came to the conclusion that I should give up on doing anything ever again. Sure, we got some good photos of the fake apple picking, hiding our despair and disappointment, but I managed to ruin that when I realized I took a bunch of pictures of a cat licking its balls in front of an artsy barn.

It was time to go home. With no donuts and only a few good photos that Lauren still doesn’t want me to post, I felt defeated. And then Lauren said the best thing she could.

Let’s go pick up some wine and binge watch Netflix.

So we did, and I had the brilliant idea of making apple cider donuts at home….I didn’t have apple cider though (of course, I’m a f*cking genius for that). With an alarming lack of anything I needed in my life besides the lovely glasses of wine the two of us had, we managed to whip together baked cinnamon sugar donuts and invite a few others over to enjoy in the donuts made with frustration and anger and tipsiness. Might I just say, we did a damn good job of making it seem like these donuts were an acceptable substitute.

And this is why I date my friends.

Oddly Dating: Tianxin and La Pupuseria

First of all, I just want to say I think it’s a beautiful thing that a Norwegian/Irish white girl and a Chinese girl can walk into a Salvadoran restaurant to get food without even the thought of how none of this would be possible without globalization and how we are all beautifully connected, especially by food. I mean, all of the waitresses still looked at us like “what are these non-latino bitches doing in here?” but still, beautiful.

Okay, I’m done trying to be deep and philosophical. Let’s talk about MY DATE, one of the most amazing people I know and truly one of the best friends I’ve ever had, Tianxin. This girl is the whole package, and I am not just saying that (actually super jealous low-key but now it’s high-key).  She’s going to hate me for writing this because she’s incredibly modest, but this female is amazing at everything she does. Her artistic talent touches upon every aspect of her life, whether it is her photographic eye, cooking videos on her snapchat, her bomb ass outfits; it doesn’t matter (she’s also a sassy hoe but we will get to that later).

Naturally then, she had to be my first date. The two of us go to University of Maryland, making it incredibly easy to get to Washington D.C. I’m not sure if you know this, but there are a lot of amazing restaurants there that I never shut up about. However, that’s not where we went. College Park, Maryland may not be the same type of cultural hub with vibing lunch spots, more like hungover college students in line for Bagel Place repeatedly saying “I want to die” and “what did I do last night?” (I can’t honestly say that hasn’t been me… on numerous occasions). But the two of us really appreciate authenticity… and cheapness, and for that I knew just the place. La Pupuseria.

Authentic Salvadoran pupusas and chicken tamales on a beautiful, hot as hell fall day

just a side note, the weather in Maryland has been so hot I’ve woken up questioning where I am, if I will survive (because my A.C. is broken), and also how people can be so not woke as to deny climate change. I’m here sweating my ass off and it’s October; that’s not okay, I should be freezing my ass off.

If you don’t know what pupusas are, I’m so sorry. It’s not too late for you to enjoy life. Go out and get yourself one of those

tortillas stuffed with cheese and goodness ASAP. Our waitress approached and guess who didn’t speak Spanish because her date ordered for her?! (I’m dying to practice my Spanish, it is so weak after coming back from Spain).  Tianxin and I sat by the window. “Good natural light, great for pictures,” she told me. Chicken tamales, pupusas with beans and chiccaron (pork, SO GOOD). And these were enjoyed along with the wonderful conversation. People probably think we hate each other. There’s no end to the sarcasm and bitch fest between the two of us if we are being honest. Tianxin tells me straight when I’m being a whiny bitch, or when I really need to stop trying to drunkenly cook for everyone on a Saturday night (unless of course she’s just as gone as I am, and none of my friends say no though so this is going to keep happening). Tianxin is a real friend and a fucking pleasure to be around. 

We waited for our food among the sounds of Spanish music and the Barcelona game on the television. It all seemed to be drowned out as the two of us talked about school (or maybe we were crying?), my drama filled life (as you can tell from my blog), and how much it sucks when someone is attractive but their personality isn’t.

My birthgiver (my mom, that’s what I call my mom) always told me, “looks are only the price of admission.” What she meant was, attraction is only the first step towards engagement. It’s not having your cake, or eating it, or both. Not even close man. It’s cool if you’re really cute, but if you don’t care about anything, if you don’t have interests or any sort of passion, I think it should be pretty obvious where you’re going with someone who does; nowhere.

So we babbled on, but I still wanted to practice my Spanish. If you hadn’t already seen from my blog posts, instagram, snapchat stories, facebook, literally everything I do, I really love speaking Spanish (AND ALSO, I went to Spain. I know, I never talk about it…never). When our food came out, the waitress forgot to bring two forks. I went up to the counter and said in plain Spanish, “Do you have a fork?”

She answered in English. All of them looked at me confused, gave me the fork, and watched me walk back to my table super salty and disappointed. As Tianxin can tell you, I didn’t let this go, not even after eating the most amazing five dollar meal I’ve ever had. I don’t know if I can accurately describe in detail the feeling of eating something this good under $5. All I will say is,

It was fucking delicious.

I don’t think I could have asked for a more perfect date. And the next day, she didn’t even ghost me. She even listened to me complain again about my Spanish-less encounter. If that isn’t true love and luck, I don’t know what is.

The Bad Days: Stories You Didn’t Hear from Spain

Wow what a depressing title. Am I going through a goth phase? Stay tuned to find out…… Of course not, my sister did enough for the two of us (love you Sara).

No, I wanted to share some things with you. Life is hard, and strange, and also magnificent. I’m a story teller here, sharing my life and travels, and sometimes recipes (Sorry for that, I’m getting on it I cross my heart hope to die swear to you I’ll get some recipes up once I move into my apartment). I’ve shared a lot of my amazing experiences through my writing and instagram and whatever other social media. That’s the thing though, I shared the amazing, good stuff. I joked around about being stuck in the airport and all the misadventures, but life is obviously more than falling for a Mexican rugby player or finishing a book next to a palace in Spain. Don’t get me wrong; I’m so lucky and my life was dope when I was abroad. I’ll always remember my time in Spain fondly, but I can present myself to you all and to social media as if the bad days never happened.

So, here are some memories from Spain I thought maybe you’d like to hear. They’re sort of sad and funny and maybe will make you feel a little less envious, but also more aware of what traveling actually entails. It’s not all sunsets and sangria and shit.

  1.  I spent my first night in Salamanca in my room, not talking to my host family except for my “mom’s” grand daughter, Chloe. This little girl ordered me around and made me do weird exercises she must have learned in class. Chloe then proceeded to draw all over the only paper I had brought for class. COOL. I ended up crying that night in bed because I missed Madrid (not even missing home, sorry guys).
  2. *This is a bit more personal but get over it. You can handle it if you’re not a middle school boy* I ran out of tampons my first day of class in Salamanca.  SOOO I had to ask my host father to take me to the pharmacy without telling him what the hell I needed. I get in there, and in front of two grown men I had to try to explain what the fuck a tampon was because I didn’t know the word for tampon in Spanish. The two of them looked at me like I had two heads, until they finally realized what I needed. The guy at the pharmacy actually kept looking at me like a freak, as he was super offended and told me to go to a woman’s pharmacy. Super embarrassed, I was red all over and had to go to two other stores with my host father. P.S. just in case you ever need to know, the word for tampon in Spanish is “tampone” fml
  3. When I was in Granada in the south of Spain, I was walking down the street by myself and this old woman came up to me. She handed me a rosemary sprig and told me it was “un regalo” meaning “a gift.” I was like ok…. thanks and tried to leave. Before I could, she read my palm in Spanish while smiling at me with nearly no teeth. When she was done, I turned to leave and she grabbed my wrist and told me “pagame” , pay me! All I could think was “what the hell is going on, I’m a broke college student even in Spain.” She told me I owed her five euro. A car came down the road in between us. I saw my chance to break free. Just kidding! She proceeded to chase me down the street while screaming at me. Moral of the story everyone, don’t fucking take rosemary from old women in Spain.
  4. what is up with my face here what am I doing

    I went to Alhambra by myself and there were a ton of couples and groups of people. Me being me, I didn’t think much of it until I wanted to take pictures of myself in cool places. I  looked like the most miserable selfie taker in the world; perpetually single and taking terrible photos. If I was given the option to for the day, I would have rented a stand-in boyfriend despite the fact that I’m a strong independent woman. Even the guards asked me if I was by myself, and took pity on me when they found out I was just a little American girl wandering around in one of the most beautiful and romantic places in the world. Still cool af though. Also, my phone died halfway through my time there, so I had to hide in the bathroom after I found an outlet to charge it. I pretended to do my mascara for a good twenty minutes so I could stay in there.

    super awkward girl
  5. This story is sort of scary and I highly recommend ladies that when you are in any foreign country, be careful. I was at my hostel in Madrid, not Sungate One of course, but another one. The guy who was sleeping in the bunk bed above me came down after I had gotten back from a bar crawl. He was also quite drunk, and tried to grab me and kiss me once he heard me speaking. I pushed him away firmly and told him to go the fuck to bed. He realized I was American and said to me “I’ve never been with an American” and all I could think so say was “Well you’re not fucking going to are you?” It was scary, and I should have told management, but I was drunk and there were others in the room so if I yelled for help I would have gotten it. The next morning he apologized, but it was probably the worst day I had in Spain because of him.
  6. I realize I haven’t yet written about Barcelona, but that’s probably because I didn’t do much there. I got to go on a few adventures. For the most part though, I was in my room writing papers. On the fourth of July, I literally spent the entire night reading for class the next day. I think the real kicker though was having the laundry machine break down while my clothes were in it. I paid two euro to use the washer, only for it to not drain OR rinse the soap out of my clothes. I had to rinse each article of clothing individually and hang them all up. A maid at the student housing unit told me the dryer actually worked, so I took all my lovely five hundred articles of clothing and stuffed them into a …. BROKEN DRYER only to take them out and hang them all up again. I hated Barcelona for a couple of days honestly after that.
  7. My final story, which I fully intend to write more about, happened in Tres Cantos. I went out with a group of guy friends, one of which I’m very close with (Javier). The club we went to cost fifteen euro, that was some bullshit, but whatever. I started dancing after getting a drink, and everything was going really well…. until I tried dancing with one of the guys. One thing to know about dancing with a guy in Spain is that it means you’re interested in JUST them. You don’t dance with someone unless you like them. My American ignorance was shining when the guy went in and tried to stick his tongue down my throat. I pulled away and nearly ran out of the club. He ended up sitting down for the rest of the night, super upset. Javier explained it all to me. “Don’t dance unless you WANT them.” Oh god, that’s so intense. I didn’t end up dancing again, or going out for the rest of my time in Spain.

There are definitely more stories to share, and more depressing or weird things I could share with you. I personally believe if you can’t take the good with the bad, don’t travel. This is life; it’s not like you can simply escape everything in a beautiful place. I learned that really quickly, but I would still go back, still continue seeing the world.

The pile of bad things I just shared take nothing away from my immense pile of good things I share with you and keep for myself.

 

Halloumi Veggie Sandwich aka “Vegetarian’s Wet Dream”

WOW what a title to live up to. I hope I can do it justice. This sandwich was created in my friend Paul’s kitchen when the two of us were hungover and hungry. If I can make this with a wicked headache and little coordination, you can absolutely do this with little to no experience in the kitchen. This tastes amazing hungover, probably even better drunk, and equally as good sober

This recipe makes two sandwiches, and obviously you can make one, or six, or ten-thousand….

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of sturdy bread, multigrain is good
  • 4 pieces (small rectangles) of Halloumi cheese, Trader Joe’s has it!
  • 1/2 a medium onion, sliced
    • 1/2 tsp paprika
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 slices of veggie bacon (or real bacon if you’re freakin lame)
  • 2 or 3 radishes, thinly sliced (this shit is hard, just do your best)
  • 1 small tomato, sliced how you like it
  • Mayo
  • Hot Sauce (optional)

Directions:

  1. Toast that bread up really nicely, however you like it. I recommend just lightly browned.
  2. Take a medium pan, heat it to medium-high heat and place the Halloumi cheese in to cook. You’re going to want to brown it on both sides, a nice golden color. About 3 to 5 minutes on each side.
  3. In the meantime, mix together the onions with paprika and olive oil. Take the cheese out of the pan and proceed to cook the onions until translucent, about 6 minutes.
  4. Take a separate pan of good size and place the veggie bacon in with a little bit of oil. Cook according to box directions.
  5. Prepare the sandwich by spreading hot sauce on one slice of bread and mayo on the other. Take the halloumi cheese and place it on one side, then proceed with the veggie bacon, tomatoes, radishes, and finally the onions.
  6. Oh my gosh, you’re done and you have an a-mazing sandwich; one worth dreaming for.

Granada : Alhambra, Tapas, and the World Being Smaller than it Seems

I’m broke. Really, I don’t have money to be traveling around Europe, or even Spain for that matter but guess who has her middle finger up to reason? (It’s me guys. I think that’s an obvious rhetorical question).

As you know, I’m studying abroad in Spain for the summer, spending most of my days in the beautiful city of Salamanca getting drinks the size of my head for four euros and dancing the night away… oh and doing TONS of homework. Fortunately I only have class Tuesday through Thursday, with some weekends open for travel. I had a free weekend at the end of June. Nearly peed myself with excitement; I was planning on going to Porto, Portugal. There is this beautiful bookstore J.K Rowling was inspired by when writing the Harry Potter books. God, that would have been cool right? You know what’s not cool though? The amount of money it cost to go. I waited till the last minute to get a bus ticket; it was just not happening.

Meanwhile, my friends studying abroad were making extravagant plans for Rome and Paris. A small glimmer of a thought crossed my mind that maybe I should just stay. Although I love being barracha (drunk) and dancing with guapos (you can look this one up) in the discotecas in Salamanca, it’s not fun going by myself. Also, if it hasn’t become apparent yet because you’re just not paying attention to my long ass blog posts, I really like to travel to new places, make friends, and eat amazing food.

There was a simple solution to this. I kept my middle finger up to my bank account, called an Australian I met in Madrid (the cute one, yes), and followed his advice all the way down south. Granada was the place to be apparently. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it in the first place; I deserve to be shunned as a lover of cheap and good food.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After arriving and walking about forty minutes, a little pathway to Morocco stood in front of me. The street was bustling with shop keepers, selling bags, hookahs, dried fruits, and pants that looked more comfortable and hippie than anything I’ve ever seen in my life (Yes, I did buy a pair). A bit confused, I walked up the street looking for my hostel. Mid way through, I turned down a corridor and finally, made it. By recommendation, I booked Oasis Backpackers Hostel for my long weekend free of homework (I’m just on a roll with the jokes here huh?), full of alcohol and amazing comida. It was a cute little place with a bar, kitchen, and nice rooftop. I wouldn’t say it’s THE place to stay but it was good for the price and it was close to everything.

JUST A TIP: I will say, in general, if you stay alone at a hostel and want to make friends, a bar crawl can be worth it but I recommend focusing on meeting people at dinner if the hostel serves free dinner or, in this case at Oasis, paella for five euros. I think it’s better to meet at dinner and go out together instead of paying a lot for a bar crawl. That’s just me though (I got ripped off at another hostel, still salty).

My first night there was disappointingly quiet, but I had to go to bed early anyway. I had to wake up the next morning at 5am and the reason was ALHAMBRA. As a lover of architecture, history, and all things odd and artistic, I was super pumped to go to this beautiful ancient city within a city. I bought tickets through my hostel a week before heading to Granada (this is absolutely necessary, it’s sold out months in advance) for a specific entry date. Only the universe understands why I chose such an early entry date, but I was permitted into the Nasrid Palaces at 8am, but I had to be there a half hour early. Soooo I woke up super early, showered and dressed, then started my journey to Alhambra. It took me a half hour to walk, or rather hike, up the scenic winding roads and through the gardens. I got lost three times, but with no money to take a taxi. When I finally arrived my heart sank and then nearly dropped out of my chest as I read the sheet of paper I got from the hostel to redeem my ticket; I needed my passport. I had forgotten my passport.

“THE ONE THING YOU NEEDED, YOU HAD ONE JOB MEGAN!”

I freaked the fuck out to say the least. Called my mom, mind you it’s 1am back home. “Mom please please pleaseeee can you send me a photo of a photocopy of my passport?” and of course, my birthgiver (that’s what I call her) saved my entire life. Got up to the window to claim my ticket, a little nervous still that it wouldn’t work. If you’re from the United States, you know how much of a hardass some people can be about IDs. “Oh that’s fine, any form of ID is fine” …. you’re fucking kidding me. I spent nearly half an hour on the brink of crying, calling home and telling my friends I loved them and my life is over for you to tell me I could have just chilled and handed you my student ID WHAT.

A wave of anger and relief simultaneously washed over me as I entered through the gates and on my walk to the palace. My mouth immediately dropped when I walked into the first room, and it was just the beginning. Every single wall was covered in Arabic scripture. The ceilings were tall and intricately cut to look like heaven was directly above where you stood. Tiles and stones ran along the bottom of walls as if waves of color followed you with each turn. My first thought was “this is absolutely remarkable, 11th century? I would stay here forever if I could,” and then came the “wow how much human suffering had to be thrown at this place to make this happen” train of thought that I couldn’t ignore after thinking about how intricate even the smallest section of one wall, in one room, in this huge palace was.

And then there were the gardens, nearly a destination of their own. I couldn’t help but take pictures of every tree and every flower, every view overlooking the city I hoped to never leave. Since I was by myself, all my pictures were either awkward selfies or landscapes. The guards noticed I was by myself and congratulated me on being independent and adventurous, and all in Spanish. All those tinder dates with Spaniards were paying off I guess!

 

 

 

 

ANYWAYS….
Not to change the subject but I sincerely hope you know what tapas are. If you don’t, I also sincerely hope you’re nowhere near me when I find out. I don’t know how I lived before Granada, but my life was a lie. It was like taking the red pill (yeah that’s a Matrix reference and it’s totally appropriate for this situation). Admittedly, it’s not my fault that the rest of the world has not gotten on board with the idea that you should basically be rewarded for buying a glass of wine with free food. I REALLY like this rewards program though, and it’s all throughout Granada. Tapas are little dishes of food you can get, almost like a sampling of delicious things in moderation. I laughed a little bit when typing that because moderation is the exact opposite description for my tapas experience. In my mind, I had to have all or nothing, and I sure as hell got it all.

Tapas bars are everywhere, with varying types of dishes in each location. There was so much to try, so many glasses of wine to drink, and so little money to be spent. I managed to make my way to three noteworthy places that I wanted to name drop just in case you’re ever in the area:

  • Bodegas Castaneda – the wine was a-mazing, the tapas were divine, and there was no where to sit in this bustling little restaurant within walking distance from my hostel. I highly recommend getting here as soon as you can, and staying as long as possible. Just don’t make it obvious you’re American. One con to this place is that you don’t get to choose what you want as your tapa, but HEY free food, who’s complaining?
  • La Riviera – Always packed and for a decent reason. This bar was a staple for tapas and good drinks. I wouldn’t say it was the best place I’ve ever been, but I spent two nights here with good food and even better company. Oh, and there’s tons of English speakers here so if you’re feeling homesick, drop by.
  • Bar Poe – THE BEST TAPAS. I was missing spicy food a lot; picante in Spain is NOT picante to me. This little bar was my remedy. Surrounded by young travelers, the solo bartender in the middle of the island counter had us all covered, in whatever language we spoke. Tintos de verano (wine spritzers, sooo good) went around the table along with dishes like Pollo en salsa Thailandés (Thai Chicken), or Portuguese Salt Cod. I could not recommend a better place to be.

Tapas were not my sole form of sustenance though.  Paella was a must, along with nuts and dried fruits I bought in the beautiful merchant streets right next to Oasis. I also had some bomb falafel and split a chicken shawarma with a guy I met at the hostel. Speaking of which, I haven’t explained how small of a world we live in.

So, I went to Granada on my own. I was a solo traveler, a lone wolf. I didn’t realize how boring that can be. Besides seeing Alhambra, there was really not much more to be done other than go to the mountains (which I couldn’t do because I’m an idiot and forgot my sneakers). Seriously, no one to talk to or go out with. I love it though because it forces me to make friends and be sociable in dead awkward silence; that’s how I met Heather.

Oasis Backpackers Hostel had a gorgeous rooftop that overlooked the city and I spent a lot of my time up there. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same exact idea as me to take a seat up there and chain smoke cigarettes in dead silence. My second night there, I was charging my phone, looking up at the stars and, again, enveloped in dead silence and tobacco smoke. There was a girl on the couch across the rooftop from me and a young looking kid sitting in a chair off to the side of her. Heather wasn’t smoking, rather sitting on her phone and pretending none of us existed, just like everyone else there was doing. I was incredibly bored, and annoyed at the silence so I finally said something.

“Do you speak English?” Her head popped up and smiled. “Yeah I’m from the US!” she replied. Bingo. I was a little excited, after speaking only Spanish all day I thought I could use a break. I asked her where she was from. Maryland. “Nooooo way,” I yelled much louder than I thought I had. Of course, she picked up on the fact that I was, indeed, also a Marylander. Turns out, she’s from the same city as me, and went to high school right down the road from mine. We could have easily met at home, yet Heather and I were destined to meet thousands of miles away from it.

Her story was much more interesting than mine; a love story that brought her to Ireland and then all around Europe. She met her boyfriend, an Irish rugby player (wow her and I have similar tastes don’t we?), a year or two ago and they had been talking ever since. The long distance relationship just wasn’t going to cut it anymore! So she moved to Ireland to attend grad school for Computer Science. This girl was living the dream, traveling around Europe with the guy she dreamed of being with. I was lucky enough to bump into them in Granada.

Unfortunately though I wasn’t that lucky, as I didn’t get to see her for more than two days. The two of us parted ways with a smile and a wave goodbye. I had classes and she had an adventure to continue. I follow her on Instagram and I don’t think I could be anymore jealous, but also happy for her.

Maybe someday I’ll be that lucky 🙂

Odd Thoughts: August 9th

Have you ever gone to a party or an event with your friend and felt a little uncomfortable, probably because it’s actually your friend who was invited, or maybe it’s because it’s all of her friends? Or maybe it’s just that you’re not vibing with the atmosphere. The air is thick with a sense of unwelcomeness. It’s nothing personal or anything against you. It is the way that it is, and you are the way you are.

I think that best describes how I feel all the time after returning home. After spending roughly 8 weeks abroad, I don’t feel the same comfort and ease in the United States as I once did. I used to be homesick, only just a little, during my time in Spain but now…. now I have this strange reverse homesickness. I feel like a puzzle after a child has ripped out a few pieces with the potential of them never returning.

Deep right? and oh so melancholy. That’s life though, and that’s what traveling can do to you. As I sit here typing this I’m filled with sadness and indecision. My entire life changed and then changed again, but not for the better. I miss the long lunches at 2 o’clock with my Spanish family, the late nights with my friends and watching the sunrise the next morning because we stayed out too late (it was never TOO late to party in Spain to be honest). I miss walking everywhere I went and spending the majority of my time outside. I miss watching Rick and Morty in Spanish, and then promptly in English because it was too fucking weird for me and listening to my friend Javier play the piano. I miss it all, and I can’t have those times back, but I’m sitting here waiting to make more memories next semester.

They say you don’t know the water you’re swimming in till you’re out of it. I’ve never thought a statement so true in my life.

Salamanca: The Youngest Oldest City and A Love Story

I honestly can’t focus while typing this; it’s been difficult switching between English and Spanish so I’ve just been incredibly lazy and ignored everything in English that’s unnecessary (aka writing for my beloved blog, sorry everyone). Plus, I just keep playing Despacito over and over again, so of course I’m not going to get anything done.

Really though, I’ve had so much homework, including readings and papers in Spanish. “You’re not actually studying though are you?” my friends would jokingly say to me.  LOL STUDY ABROAD is actually study abroad believe it or not. Thank the goddess Venus herself for saving my soul and giving me friends in Spain from an exchange I did when I was sixteen in Tres Cantos (more on this later). I don’t know if I would have learned anything without them this trip.

They weren’t in Salamanca with me unfortunately.  Instead, I had the most amazing group of chicas (and chico) from University of Maryland with me. For four weeks, the lot of us enjoyed everything the “Youngest Oldest City” had to offer.

Now what the hell does that mean? Youngest Oldest City? Are you losing your ability to speak English now?

Super glad you’re curious and also to the point. So let me explain some things and see if you can piece it together:

  1. Salamanca is a city in the Castile and León region, about two hours away from Madrid
  2. It was founded in the 1100s (before the United States was a thing or even an idea)
  3. The Universidad de Salamanca is a thing. Next year, it’ll be 800 years old
  4. People still go to this school…. so what type of people attend a university usually?

Bingo. This incredibly old city is full of college students, and it’s a beautifully dangerous mixture. Along with all the landmarks, including libraries with globes that don’t include North America (because it wasn’t found yet, holy shit) and cathedrals towering over the city in marvelous fashion, there are bars with drinks as big as my head and discotecas (dance clubs) that close as the sun rises. During the day, we were cultured students studying at one of the oldest universities in Europe, and by night, Americanas with burning desires to dance, practice our Spanish, and drink Aguas de Valencia. And that’s how the love story comes in.

But first I want to clarify; there’s so much more to this city than that. From the charming cafes and tapas restaurants, to the beautiful river, and the perfect Spanish of the Salamantinos, I couldn’t have asked for a better city to live in.  I loved my host family, despite all the goddamn potatoes they gave me on a daily basis.

Seriously though, a PSA to Spaniards: You need to eat more vegetables. For real, potatoes and tomatoes ain’t going to do it for you. Pan (bread) is not a vegetable and neither is vino. Get it together

*Maybe I’m just a little more than jealous, or I’m absolutely right*

Spain, don’t change. I love you.

That’s not my love story though. I’ve been in love for Spain longer than any guy in my life. No, this was new “love”. It all started with wanting to practice Spanish, and what better way to do that than, you guessed it (maybe not actually…) TINDER. I figured, what the hell. I need to speak Spanish with native speakers and una cita, a date out in the romantic cafes of Spain would be nice. Now, for the purpose of discreetness, and also so you can’t look these people up through my Facebook and tell them I wrote this story and laugh forever at my awkwardness, I’m not going to tell you their names. Instead, all you have to remember is there was a Puertorriqueño  and a Mexicano. What a start to this story, not even a Spaniard in sight.

More context is probably necessary about the setting. Salamanca, and other cities in Spain have these places called Plaza Mayores. Out of all that I have seen, Salamanca’s is by far the most beautiful. To Americans, it probably seems like some silly European crap; it’s just  an open square with restaurants and stores surrounding the opening. I absolutely love it though. People gather there to hang out or celebrate. When Real Madrid won right after I arrived in Spain, you better believe I was there.

I set up a date with the Puertorriqueño; we were to meet in Plaza Mayor near the elephant, an almost obscene sculpture who’s ass was pointed in the air and occasionally farted mist. I’m not giving you anymore context than that. So, I waited in front of the farting piece of art for my date, while my two other amigas were waiting at a bar nearby (I’m not stupid, I wasn’t going in alone). As I sat there waiting, I noticed to my right a fidgety guy, and wow was he cute. I could tell her kept looking over at me, maybe waiting for a date of him own. After about ten minutes of waiting, the cute guy, as you will come to know as the Mexicano, turned toward me, jumped over, and started talking to me. Just as he started, my date was walking towards me. All I could think was “Shit I’m so  awkward what do I do?” I kept talking to the Mexicano with the Puertorriqueño now to my left. It was an uncomfortable sandwich love affair. I finally said to the Mexicano “this is my date! but hey, you should come with us to meet my friends…”

The night went well. Aguas de Valencia and chupitos (shots) of tequila all around. The Mexicano informed us he had one night left in Salamanca, and that he was glad to have made friends with such amazing Americanas and a fellow brother (He may not have said amazing but I knew he was thinking it). My Puertorriqueño friend walked me home. I wasn’t feeling the amor after our date. To be honest, I prefered to meet without the help of the internet, no judgement to anyone who does. That’s exactly what I was doing right? But it was to practice my Spanish, not to fall in love.

Next night, I got on my black dress and Adidas; Ms. Steal Your Heart. Objectively, I looked quite good. Subjectively, I was looking like the best thing since sliced bread everyone. I was prepared for a night out with the girls. Listened to Kendrik Lamar on my walk to Plaza Mayor; trying to humble myself but I was having a good time. When I arrived, my friend informed me she invited the Mexicano to Plaza Mayor. Apparently, he was there for another night. Also apparently, she didn’t want to see him….

All I could think was “OKAY, no, not chill. Don’t stand someone up because you’re just not feeling it.” I saw him out of the corner of my eye and ran over. That night in plaza mayor there was a light show on the buildings. He was standing on the steps of the elephant where we first met, watching the lights show. His name burst from my mouth, followed by his immediate swivel towards me and a flashing smile appearing on his face. I bet it’s not hard to convince you I swooned immediately when he asked me if I wanted to get a beer, or rather a cerveza.

The two of us sat in a bar, drinking beers and talking about rugby (which he plays quite competitively), Rogue One, and Donald Trump. We left to look for the others girls and to head to another bar with the full intention of having an unreasonable, but seemingly reasonable at the time, number of Aguas de Valencia. No one appeared, and I was rather disappointed to miss my friends. The feeling disappeared after turning around from the bar to a kiss. Yep, I was smitten.

From bar to bar we went, then to a discoteca and another bar. We danced the night away, hand in hand. “I want to show you the most beautiful sights of Salamanca,” he told me. “Beautiful sights for a beautiful girl.” Kind of cheesy, I know. We walked through the lamp lit, winding streets of the Spanish city, holding hands as if this was so typical for us.

By 4am it was time to say goodbye. It felt like the night was only just beginning, but I knew it was time to go. A final kiss and an “Hasta luego” were exchanged. I really do think I’ll see him again, wherever the road takes me though. Quite frustrating though isn’t it? But I’ve come to be comfortable with change and uncertainty. It’s one of the most difficult and beautiful parts of traveling. I wouldn’t trade it for the world

I knew it wasn’t love, not really. That was the night though I fell in love with Salamanca. Even after the boy was gone, I’d walk down those streets and picture what I wish the future could be for me; forever enjoying the dark and wondrous nights of such an old and beautiful town.

Of course I continued to enjoy the city with friends and on my own. All of us went for tapas and wine. There were surely many more nights of Aguas de Valencia, discotecas, staying out until the sunrises, and also helping to make sure incredibly inebriated people are alright. There were also days at the parks and pools, soaking up that Spanish sun and pretending like I wasn’t the whitest person within a five mile radius. There was time to explore and time to practice Spanish with impatient shop keepers. I felt like I was a child, finding all the sites only an adventurous and curious child could find. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday I walked to class as if I had always lived there and always would. By the time I left, I was tempted to tell everyone “Soy de Salamanca! I’m from Salamanca!” and that was surely my joke to my friends in Madrid and Tres Cantos.

*Buzzwords to remember: Plaza Mayor, Agua de Valencia, Universidad de Salamanca, Discoteca?, Studying (actually), Pan and Vino  are not vegetables, Una Cita, Amor, Chupitos = shots*

Odd Thoughts: June 12th in Madrid

Have you ever been anywhere and felt immediately at home? For some people it’s in a best friend’s house or the library during finals week (just kidding, that’s just being surrounded by suffering). I recently had that sensation in Madrid this weekend, and on May 30th when I first arrived.

I’m a little bit of a romantic at times so I thought maybe it’s just the beautiful architecture or the antiquity of it all. All the monuments, gardens, and museums let you take a step back in time for even just a brief moment and enjoy something people did hundreds of years ago. Taking a walk at night is supposed to scare the crap out of me as a woman, right? (Still sort of did a little) But Madrid at night is so beautiful and strange at the same time. I could walk for hours, looking into the bustling cafes and bars. Watching the drunken Spaniards ramble on about politics and how Spain’s economy is going to shit.

After laughing to the point that I almost pissed myself today, I realized it wasn’t just the city. It’s the people. That feeling of belonging I get being in this city is because I’ve met so many amazing people, both from Spain and elsewhere. I laugh with them and have had amazing times but also it seems like they all give a shit about something; they all are real people with dreams and plans and interesting lives. I think, more or less, that’s literally everyone in the world right? Everyone has a story, and a life worth living. Not everyone gives a shit about something worth giving a shit about though. For the most part, they did. It was always something inspiring because to them, life is too short. What wonderful human beings honestly. Just sharing their lives and perspectives was enough to make me want to stay. I feel so welcome because they genuinely are welcoming me into a part of their lives, even for a day or two.

I think it also has to do with a common acceptance of the fact that people have different perspectives and live their lives the way they want to. People are more than meets the eye. Everyone has a story to be told. Again, I’m a romantic so what the fuck do I know? I just finished reading the book A Man Called Ove yesterday, crying my eyes out in the gardens next to the Palace here. I highly recommend it; the book had a lot to do with understanding there is much more to someone than what we first see.

Back to Madrid. Now, of course that’s not everyone. I’ve met people who nearly knocked me over on the street. I’ve been ripped off by bartenders and cheated by hostels, but I still truly believe for the most part that this city is just full of people worth knowing and getting to know.

And how could I not talk about the food?!?! That’s for later posts mis amores.

The culture though. The way people live their lives here is so much slower than the U.S (which sometimes has me nearly screaming obscenities at people walking as slow as possible when I’m trying to get somewhere). I love it though, and I think this is how I’d like to live my life. Maybe it’s because I’m always late everywhere I go, or maybe it’s because I can no longer see the point in racing through life without trying to enjoy every bit of it that I can.

Maybe it’s not Madrid that I love, but the new way of life I’ve discovered here with these amazing people. I think, more or less, it’s both.

I wish I could stay, but a story must end at the right time on the right note. So for now, hasta luego!
*BTW I almost pissed myself laughing because I came across my friend cutting his pizza with scissors. Think outside the box my friends.

Madrid: Sungate One Hostel & All the Sites to See

On Memorial Day in the U.S, I sat in the airport waiting for my flight, feeling incredibly stupid for not only mistaking the time of the flight but also for forgetting my adapter AND euros at home. In the end it didn’t really matter (it cost me quite a bit, don’t be like me). At that point, I was stressed out of my mind. My own fault; I packed literally three hours before my flight KNOWING I should have packed two days before.

Do you really expect anything else from me?

I was on my way to Frankfurt, Germany, then to Madrid,  Spain (my intended destination for 6 weeks wooooooo). So why Frankfurt first?? WELL I wanted to get the cheapest flight, and I thought:

Heyy, do you know what would be a great idea? Saving 100$! by sitting in an airport for 8+ hours in a country where you don’t speak the language and you can’t check your bags until right before the flight so it’s not like you can go anywhere or sleep or rest your mind and thoughts or anything…. great idea!

When I booked the flight I didn’t know it’d be that bad; oh how young and naive I was two months ago. The first flight was god awful physically, and a bit of a mental strain as I didn’t sleep AT ALL for a good seven hours. I totally had a good reason:  I sat next to a Canadian professor of music theory who was going to learn German intensively over the next 8 weeks; who I also instantly clicked with. We sat there drinking wine and enjoyed rambling on about Trump, the environment, the white savior complex, etc.. The conversation cost me my sleep, and therefore my sanity, for the next day and a half until I finally arrived in Madrid at 10:30 pm (22:30). It felt like I had just gone through finals week all over again.

I arrived at the airport and immediately jumped into a taxi after getting my overstuffed duffel bag (not a good choice, why would I pick a bag without wheels!). Again, no sleep to be had there. I chatted with the taxi driver in Spanish for maybe a minute; he insisted on speaking English, which I much appreciated. After nearly 24 hours of travel, I don’t think I was making any sense in English, let alone another language. We chatted about Madrid, the crazy accents across the country, Salamanca (where I’d be studying), and the FOOD. Tapas, paella, jamon, patatas; the stuff of dreams. My stomach yearned for food in the back of the cab after the last four airplane meals.

FINALLY I arrived at my hostel, Sungate One. I could not believe how in the middle of everything I was, right next to Puerta del Sol. I walked up to the door where a couple was sitting smoking. “You need a code, here let me help,” one of them said to me. Up the stairs I went with my big ass bags. It was about 11:30 pm by that time. Promptly upon arriving to the front desk, Christopher, a pretty fine looking guy at the hostel, welcomed me and immediately asked me if I’d like to go out tonight with everyone. “We’re leaving in five minutes, but we will wait for you! It’ll be a good time,” he said with utter confidence. How could I say no? “You can check in tomorrow, it’s no problem at all.” Chris (another chris? dos? yes) showed me to my room. (Btw, both chris’s were really cool. Everyone was just really cool.) I shed my bags and slipped into a cute outfit, fluffed my hair, and ran downstairs.

REMINDER: I hadn’t slept in over a day, nor had I eaten dinner or anything in the past 10 hours.

It seemed the entire hostel was going out, residents and workers (of course not all of them), our chaperones, but also party mates. Walking at night in Madrid is beautiful, even when you’re jet-lagged and slowly losing your sanity. The lot of us, maybe 16 people, made our way to this Irish bar about 8 minutes away. The bouncer came over, grabbed our wrists, and put a stamp on each; reduced drinks courtesy of Sungate One. I couldn’t believe my luck, but not because of the drinks.

You know when you meet people that are like you, and not necessarily similar in appearance but in intentions and values and etc. That happened! I love when that happens. Everyone I was with was SO friendly and actually wanted to talk and meet each other. It felt like home and in that moment, I knew I’d want to stay as long as I could.

So that night I spent a lot of time chatting with Americans from all over the country, Australians with thick but adorable accents (one who was super cute just in case you were wondering), Native Spaniards, Canadians, a Brazilian and a Turkish guy; oh, and this Chilean dude that I genuinely thought was French (still am not convinced, even when he speaks perfect Spanish). The first round of shots was free, and they just kept coming. After an interesting conversation about Brazilian rap and about an hour and a half of drinking, all of us poured out of the pub and ventured to a reggatone club.

All I can say is: what. an. experience.

I listened to a lot of reggatone when I was in Honduras so it wasn’t anything new in that sense. This place was comical, but honestly it was what you made of it. If you wanted to have fun and you like dancing like no one is watching, you’d love it. That’s exactly what I did. I danced with everyone I could, in every way I could. Get a few drinks in me and I’ll do the chicken dance and then fail at twerking in front of everyone; it doesn’t matter. Life’s not long enough to wait to have fun right? And everyone did the same honestly. I didn’t realize it then, but that was one of those nights that made Madrid for me.

I wasn’t thinking that the next morning with my grande resaca  (hangover). At least my surroundings were incredibly nice for the price I paid (about 22$ a night). I had my cozy little bed in a room with three other people. Each of us had a locker that also functioned as a nightstand. I dig the minimalist style. Walked to the bathroom to brush my teeth, take a long shower, and see the damage of the previous night. First of all: YESSSS the bathrooms were clean, the shower was actually hot, and the hairdryer worked (even worked well). Already off to a good start. I walked downstairs after getting dressed to have my morning ruined and made at the same time. Secondly: they make free breakfast churros and chocolate, sometimes crepes and pancakes. I overslept and missed them. UGHHHH “It’s fine, I’m fine, Everything is fine.” I was lying, very upset. Chris promised me I’d get it next time. God the people who work there were just so nice. It was alright; I was actually fine this time as I ended up going out to this amazing churro place right around the corner. That’s where my day of sight-seeing began.

“Don’t forget to write your name down for dinner if you want it!” someone yelled after me. Oh third: dinner is free, but it’s so good you’ll want to tip.

Totally isn’t my photo don’t sue me Sungate One I love you

Ok, I know you want to know the name of that churro place. It’s called Chocolateria San GinesHOLY SHIT was it good. Javier, an old friend of mine, and I split two of those beautifully fried desserts, dipping them in this thick melted chocolate for breakfast. *Just so you know, this is normal in Spain. We aren’t rebels (or at least we weren’t being cool kids there). He tried to get me to chug the rest of the chocolate when we were done. I would have gone into a diabetic coma.

The store was around the corner from the Palacio Real de Madrid. Quite a beautiful place to be, with gardens along the side that were small but still beautiful. Right next store is this grand cathedral known in English as the Almudena Cathedral. If everything is gold and extravagant for the most part you know you’re in a cathedral in Spain.

Palacio Real de Madrid
Almudena Cathedral
Javier thinks he’s cool

These are some of the most popular places to visit if you come to Madrid because they are not only beautiful, but Have a lot of interesting history behind them. You could definitely take a tour, but I recommend just finding a Spanaird and making them explain everything to you like I did! Haha totally feasible right?These weren’t even my favorite places though, besides Sungate One and churros because duh.

I truly think the best places to see in Madrid are as follows in no particular order because life doesn’t make sense anyway:

 

Templo de Debod
  1. The Templo de Debab – literally an Egyptian temple that was given to Spain as a gift from Egypt, really super cool. You come across it and you’re like what??? Why? How? Oh well,still cool! They built it brick by brick right there!
  2.  Parque del Retiro de Madrid – I laid and took a siesta (a long ass nice nap) here and watched the boats go by on the lake. It was honestly the most relaxed place, a little like a tame Central Park. I would come back to Madrid just to go here again honestly because also, #3 is in this park.
  3. Palacio de Cristal Madrid – it’s literally a glass palace like structure. Super beautiful and so full of light. When you’re there, it feels like you’re in a movie. Really. Super serious.
  4. The top floor bar of El Corte Ingles (this popular superstore, right next to Sungate One actually!) – You don’t even have to buy anything or get a drink. Just go! Javier knew that at the top of the store there was this beautiful view of Madrid. I thought I had seen the city, but not until I saw this. I would have really enjoyed some vino right then and there but I’m broke and life isn’t fair.

 

So those are some of the sights to see and places to be in Madrid. I personally think the best times I have are going out with friends at night, cooking with others, and just taking a walk and getting helado. I don’t think you have to spend a lot of money to enjoy a city like this.

Just do this:

  • Get a bed at Sungate One
  • Walk around the city
  • Get some churros and chocolate, helado, and some delicious ass tapas
  • Go to the top of every building you can and enjoy the views
  • Make plans for the night and don’t you dare come home before 1 am