San Sebastian Weekend.

I went on my first vacation from the vacation this weekend!
Annie and I headed to San Sebastián, which is in the north of Spain (Basque Country), borders Portugal and is on the Atlantic Ocean….except it does NOT look like Atlantic City.  The water is…not brown.
I am actually typing the skeleton of this post from the train on the way home and will finish it sometime tomorrow (Monday) or Tuesday. (Obviously, it is now Tuesday)  San Sebastián was absolutely beautiful and we lucked out with a weekend with nice weather!
When I told people where I was going for the weekend, they would either say that it’s absolutely beautiful or give me a strange look and say “really?”.  Not a good feeling when you have spent a lot of E!
Apparently San Sebastián is characteristically rainy or overcast, but we arrived to a beautifully sunny and warm beach town, full of people running, walking, sun bathing, swimming and kayaking.
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Originally, we wanted to head to Portugal for the weekend, since this is our first four day weekend of the year.  Unfortunately, the combination of a holiday weekend and booking so late meant tickets were outrageously expensive (think 500E) so we decided to head somewhere else.
The only issue is that Annie spent a semester in Spain before, so she has been to many of the normal touristy cities and does not want to go back (naturally she wants to explore other places).  I, on the other hand, have not seen them and can hardly wait to check them out!  I am now taking applications for travel buddies.  Apply at
San Sebastián information
Population size:  More than 186,000
Known for by tourists: Pinxtos (like tapas), the cloudy weather, the beach, the amazing food, being close to France 
Distance from Madrid: 452 Km
How you can get there: bus, train, ride share, drive
How we got there: Renfe train
Price of train: 92.5E each, round trip 
Where we stayed: Downtown River Hostel
Price of the hostel (per night, per person): 40E
How much I spent food and travel over 3 days: around 70€
Total cost of trip: around 260€
First things first was getting there.  We took the Renfe train early Friday morning at 8 am and were in San Sebastián by 1 pm.  I MAY or may not have been out until 4:00 am the night before so that 6:00 am wake-up call was a bit rough, but when in Spain…live like an Espanola, verdad??  I slept for almost all 5 hours on the train, so…success.  We took the train home at 4:30 on Sunday and were back by 10:30 pm.  It was comfortable (more or less) and clean.  A little bit cool, but I’ll take that over hot.  It was also quiet minus the blabbing baby a few seats up and the girl listening to her music like her eardrums stopped working yesterday.
View from the train
The hostel: we booked the hostel before we even booked the trip because we realized that the hostels fill up fast, especially on a holiday weekend.  Many of the hostels that we looked at were already booked, or were booked within minutes of getting on the site so when we found Downtown River hostel, we booked it, even though it was pricier than many other hostels. It was almost 40€ per night each, which is very expensive for a hostel (in my opinion…).  At first, the hostel seemed clean but on further inspection, we found it kind of gross.  As far as hostels go, I didn’t think it was so bad but for the price, it absolutely could have been better.  My issue was that we paid a lot and didn’t think it was worth the price.  The biggest issue was that the hostel was two levels, one above street level and one below. We were assigned a room that was essentially underground, making it feel dark and…wet, like a pool locker room.  It even smelled like a pool locker room. The bathrooms and showers were clean enough, and the staff was friendly enough.  The wifi was iffy.  The kitchen was clean and adequate.DSC_0219Most importantly, it was centrally located.  It was about a 5 minute walk to the train station and a 5 minute walk to “town”.DSC_0099
San Sebastián itself was beautiful!  It was a beach town, but didn’t feel like a resort town.  This is probably due to the fact that it’s normally overcast and rainy.  I imagine it becomes more like a beach town in the summer months.DSC_0045
On Friday, we spent the day walking around and did a little hiking.
DSC_0107 DSC_0113 DSC_0121 DSC_0124 DSC_0126 DSC_0133 We found an outdoor festival, which seemed to happen every day we were there.  Not sure if it’s a permanent thing or not.SS2 SS1 Eventually, we headed to dinner!  We had Pinxtos and gelato and I was absolutely stuffed.  They set everything out on the bar and you take what you want, they heat it, and then you eat!IMG_0754 IMG_0758
Pinxtos are good, but almost all of them had pork so I had my fair share of tortillas this weekend (egg and potato and bread).  Exhibit A…DSC_0140
Saturday, we ventured to Bilbao by bus.
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Bilbao Information:
Population size: roughly 1 million
Distance from San Sebastian: 1.5 hours, by bus
Price of bus: 18E round trip (but it could have been as low as 13.  We did not realize)
Known for: Being part of Basque country, pinxtos, The Guggenheim Museum.
Excerpt from Wikipedia:  “After its foundation in the early 14th century by Diego López V de Haro, head of the powerful Haro family, Bilbao was a commercial hub of the Basque Country that enjoyed significant importance in Green Spain. This was due to its port activity based on the export of iron extracted from the Biscayan quarries. Throughout the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, Bilbao experienced heavy industrialization, making it the center of the second-most industrialized region of Spain, behind Barcelona.  At the same time an extraordinary population explosion prompted the annexation of several adjacent municipalities. Nowadays, Bilbao is a vigorous service city that is experiencing an ongoing social, economic, and aesthetic revitalization process, started by the iconic Bilbao Guggenheim Museum,and continued by infrastructure investments, such as the airport terminal, the rapid transit system, the tram line, the Alhóndiga, and the currently under development Abandoibarra and Zorrozaurre renewal projects.DSC_0170
It was recommended that we see it since we would be so close.  I thought it was nice and I’m glad we went, but I wouldn’t go back, nor would I recommend that anyone go out of their way to visit.  Round trip to Bilbao was 18€ (it could have been less though), and while we saw the outside of the Guggenheim, we decided to not go in and instead walk around the town.
Which is exactly what we did… For over 12 hours.  It was absolutely exhausting, but enjoyable.  We, of course, stopped along the way to take pictures, eat (100 Montaditos…forever and always <3, have coffee, and sit and relax).DSC_0171 DSC_0179 DSC_0148 DSC_0183 DSC_0187 DSC_0194 DSC_0200 DSC_0202 DSC_0214 d
Sunday (in San Sebastian) we had some breakfast and then walked along the beach, where there was a race going on.DSC_0327
Sunday was actually a bit overcast and rainy in the morning, but that certainly did not make the views any less breathtaking.  It also eventually cleared up and turned into a nice day.DSC_0281 DSC_0266 DSC_0265 DSC_0263 DSC_0254 DSC_0244 DSC_0235 DSC_0224
We walked to the Funicular (cable car…side note: it took me a solid two minutes to think of what that was called.  Tip of the tongue syndrome!) and took it to the top of a mountain.
For only 3.15€, it offered some incredible views.  And there was an amusement park at the top of the mountain!  Who knew?!
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Hm, I wonder how often that thing gets serviced?  Never?
OK Calm down!!!  I know what you’re thinking!  “TAMARA, WHERE ARE ALL OF THE PICTURES OF YOU IN THIS POST?!  I WANT TO SEE SOME SELFIES AND OTHER SELF-CENTERED PICTURES!”  Not to worry, dear reader….here they are!IMG_0824
And lastly, on the way to the hostel before heading home, we stopped for lunch.  I really think this was my first “real, hot” meal since I have been here!  Of course, I eat “hot food”, but there is something different about food cooked on a STOVE vs. cooked in a microwave.  It was goooood.  And there was a beautiful view of the ocean but I was way too starved to worry about pictures of that…

San Sebastián was beautiful and I would recommend that you go if you find yourself in Madrid.  You can definitely do it for less money!  And don’t forget your bathing suit!

If you made it this far, thank you for reading!  It took me a long time to write this post, but I’m typing from a coffee shop, listening to Gente de Zona and figuring out ways I can go dancing tonight…this music is so good.  Haha ok CHAO!

Day in the Life: My First Week As An Auxiliar

I love looking back on old Day in the Life posts to see how my life has changed over time, so I plan to write a few of them while I am here in Spain.  This post that I am writing reflects a typical Monday, but Tuesdays and Wednesdays are a bit different in that I start my day at 10:15 and leave school at 2:20.  On some Thursdays (like today, for example!) I will be teaching private group lessons from 4-7 and probably won’t get home until almost 9:00 pm (but still plan to go out!!!!).  And of course, Friday- Sunday are different.  I don’t have class on Fridays so I usually spend it sleeping, exercising, teaching a private class, and relaxing.  The rest of the weekend is spent doing the same with lots of sleeping, some partying, some time with friends, etc.
6:30 am my alarm goes off
6:40 am my alarm goes off again because I hit snooze
6:45 shower/ brush teeth/ get dressed/ put on makeup
7:15 breakfast
7:30 clean up breakfast, grab last minute things and leave home (sometimes this happens as late as 7:45)
7:50 ish-8:30 take metro (2 of them)
and the bus to school.  Try to avoid falling asleep on the bus.
9:00 arrive at school and make small talk or play with my phone until my first class.
9:20  first class. Try to ignore the fact that my face is bright red and I’m sweating
10:15 class is over!
10:20 second class. Maybe I take a few students to play a game or do a small group lesson
11:10-11:40 Break time. Eat a snack and wish I had coffee.
11:40- 1230 third Class. This is my hardest class because I’m kind of tired and have one class left. Tough life.
12:30-1:20- last class! It usually flies by.
1:20-2:10 the bus can show up between any of these times and usually my bladder is full but I don’t want to leave the stop because what if it comes?!
Eventually it shows up and I ride the bus and then take two metros to get home.  I can get home as early as 2:45 or as late as 3:30.
3:30 eat lunch or second lunch
4:00 go run errands (food shopping, other shopping, clothes shopping, go to the bank, take a walk, go to a coffee shop.  Or sometimes I don’t do any of this and take a nap!  In the near future, I would like to fill this time with things like seeing friends, having a beer or getting some food and generally have “the Spanish experience”)
8:00 return home, exhausted. Kick off my shoes, check some websites and then eventually make my way to the kitchen to make some dinner.
9:00 dinner
10:00 or 10:30 get in bed and play with my phone until it’s time to sleep. I want to get some books and read instead of stare at my phone!  Or sometimes I am just going out at this time and I pay for it the next day…but of course, it’s worth it.

The Great Relaxer Hunt.

Good morning friends!

I am blogging from school since I actually have a bit of a long break today (1.5 hours).  Yesterday the principle realized that my schedule on Tuesdays and Wednesdays is incorrect and instead of being here from 9:20-1:20, I should be here from 10:20-2:20.  Actually, on Wednesdays, instead of coming to their teacher meetings, I will be able to come from 11:40-2:20.  I was able to arrange this because I offered to hold a kind of informal English-speaking group with the students 2x/ week during the 1/2 hour break.  I was going to offer to do this anyway, but now I get to do it and have a nice, short day on Wednesdays.  Starting next week ;)  Today, I came to school for the “meeting” where I basically just made to-do lists and stared off into space and now I have a break for an hour (right now I am in the cafeteria drinking coffee and soaking up the smells of sausage mmm) and then 3 hours of class and then on my merry, merry way to my BED!  I am so, so tired for no reason other than my stupid iPhone.  I get in bed at like…10:00 and then waste time with it until almost midnight and my alarm blares in my ear at 6:30 am.  Ooph.

So…the Great Relaxer Hunt.  As I have mentioned previously, I get my hair “chemically straightened” or relaxed every year.keratin  I have super curly, frizzy hair, so the relaxer makes it more manageable…but it also makes me poor.  (Side Note: I posted this last year, but I just learned that I have been getting RELAXERS and not KERATIN.  They are two different things, but since I went to a new salon last year, I believe what I had was a Keratin treatment-it didn’t last as long and was much less expensive than usual).

Anyway, I was going to get my hair done before coming to Spain, but the price has gotten more and more outrageous each year.  This year it would have cost me $235 + tip, which isn’t horrible for a once-a-year thing, but….I decided to wait and play my luck with finding a salon in Spain.

Yesterday I decided that I can’t stand the frizz anymore so, alas, I went on the Great Relaxer Hunt.IMG_0682  Turns out, Spanish people don’t often DO relaxers because you know…they have nice, soft hair.  But there are tourists like me that want them so they can be found!  I tried to Google search some places/ recommendations, but most of what came up was for Afro-Latino or Dominican relaxers and blowouts.  Not quite what I’m looking for (because I have never had that).

The thing about having your hair relaxed is that you are dealing with not only chemicals, but very strong and potentially harmful chemicals (why do I do these things, you are wondering.  I am a mind reader), so it’s important to find someone that knows what they are doing, is mindful of previous relaxers in the hair (as it can cause a lot of damage to mix them), and is certified.  Also if they speak English, this is a nice bonus because it’s like coming here and trying to describe to a plastic surgeon what you are looking to do and they just smile and nod and tell you no problem.  No!  We need to understand each other.

I spent almost 5 hours walking around and checking out places, and here is what I found.  I walked around Sol, Tribunal, and Malasana because these are more upscale-touristy neighborhoods.  I also found a place near Lavapies. but will not be going there.  See below.

1.  Store in Lavapies  Had a huge sign with services offered.  Japanese-straightening…only 90E!  Went in to ask about the process (in Spanish)

Me: Do you do straightening?

Him: Yes

Me: What is the product?

Him: A product from my country.

Me: But what’s it called?

Him: I don’t know.  It’s from my country.  Do you want to do it now?

Me: No….*walked out*

2. Corta Cabeza Hair- Huertas

This place looked nice so we went in.  They had me sit in the chair and they looked at my hair and described the products they offer (keratin or relaxers) and told me that since relaxers are not very common in Spain, they didn’t know how much it would be.  They discussed among themselves and decided it would be 120E for the relaxer and 260 for Keratin (even though a relaxer is stronger).  I thanked them and left. (Also- they spoke English and seemed to know what they are doing.  They discussed previous relaxers in my hair and said they would use much more mild relaxers on the parts that are already treated.)

So this place has 3 locations in Madrid and since they just made up a price, I decided to check out their other locations and see what they say.

3. Corta Cabeza Hair-Tribunal 28004 Madrid

Keratin- 160 more or less (depending on amount of product used)

Relaxer- 220

4. Corta Cabeza Hair- Malasana 28004 Madrid

Keratin- 160 more or less (depending on amount used)

Relaxer- 220

5. I don’t remember the name, but was in Malasana and looked very nice.

Relaxer-260.  No.

6. Marco Aldany (Hair School)

Since this is a school, I was hoping the price would be lower, but….

Keratin: 110-120

I made an appointment at Marco Aldany for later today, but I am going to cancel it.  The Huertas Corta Cabeza location may be confused about what I want (they seem to have the relaxer/ keratin confused) but they spoke English and were sure that the relaxer is 120 and the keratin is the expensive one.  Either way, for 120E I am willing to SEE if maybe it is a relaxer, and at worse, it’s just keratin which is what I would be paying for at Marco Aldany.  Same price, but there is a chance it’s a relaxer.  This salon seems upscale, knowledgeable and they are certified, so I feel comfortable taking that chance.  Also, my hair has been growing for almost a year now, so it should be safe to put a new relaxer on it.  I was not able to get an appointment for this week, but next week- I’ll be all up in there.  I’ll check back with the results here, and I’m asking for your prayers that those results are not baldness ;)

If you’re looking for relaxers and keratin treatments in Madrid, rest assured- they are here!

**P.s. I like my curls!  A lot actually!  I don’t want to get rid of them.  I just want to loosen them and eliminate the frizz, so that’s what these treatments will do.

So Many Updates.

Happy, happy, happy, HAPPY FRIDAY!IMG_0546

This week has literally flown by.  But at the same time, last Friday feels like a month ago.  In certain ways, I feel like I am getting into a certain groove here, getting into a routine and figuring out how to navigate this city fairly easily.   But then on other days, I feel totally new, lost, and somewhat alone.  I think we all have those moments, even when we are “home”.IMG_0573

Anywho, I’m blogging from the same little cafe near my house.  I have been meaning to write a post, so that- paired with the fact that I really don’t feel like going back to my foster home- is the reason that I’m here.  I have so much to update you on!

My First Day of School!

Yesterday was my first day of school!  I am working in a high school (but the kids are between 12-18 y/o) and I work Monday-Thursday 9:20-1:25 with a half hour break in the middle!  I took a 7:30 bus (when it’s still dark) with really no idea which stop to get off or how to get there, but I figured it would all be fine.IMG_0594 And it was!  Here is what I wrote about it yesterday:

But first- a pre-school selfie!IMG_0600

Guess what? I survived my first day of school without 

A) getting lost
B) being late
C) making a fool out of myself (actually I am writing this before my first class even began so this could still happen.  Will report back).
I like my school so far!  Despite what we were told during orientation, the teachers were nice and so welcoming and seemed eager to get to know me.  Apparently, I am the only auxiliar at the school, which I kind of like since I won’t have any competition ;). It will also force me to practice my Spanish with the other teachers because I won’t have any American amigos to rely on. Or I might just be antisocial every day, which is a very possible possibility.  Yes I just wrote that and I teach English.
I had to wake up at the ass-crack of dawn to get there on time (6:15 am), but it was fine because I could hardly sleep last night. I wasn’t nervous or excited for my first day or anything, but I guess I was subconsciously nervous about having something to do in the morning when I have basically had nothing to do for the last three weeks.  I had to take two metros and the bus to get here, and in total it took me about an hour to get here (including stopping on the way to the metro “to get properly caffeinated”- hi mom).  Luckily, I found out today that my first class each day will be at 9:20, so I can take the 8:30 bus every day (as opposed to the 7:30, which is like a lifetime of sleep).  I will be done each day at 1:25 and then will be on my merry way home for lunch (although I’ll probably eat at school because waiting 6 hours to eat is impossible. Literally, I will die.  I ate two hours ago and my stomach is growling, but I have to go to class in 5 minutes.)  My first class! And she “wants me to teach the entire class”.  Haha I guess I’ll report back but if I don’t, it’s because the kids ate me alive.  Consider this my last living note.
Side note- I have a pretty AMAZING schedule.  It is common for secondary school students to go home for lunch, so the day starts earlier and ends before two.  As an auxiliar, I am paid for 4 hours of work each day, but this is not supposed to include breaks (but for me it does!).  That means that that primary school auxiliars have a two hour (TWO HOUR!) break during the day, which means they are at school for 6 hours or more!  Of course they can plan lessons or do whatever they want during this time so it’s not that bad.   But I prefer my Monday-Thursday schedule ;)  Plus!  A lot of people have off Monday (or even worse, another day during the week) and a lot of our holidays fall on Monday which gives me a 4 day weekend.  I might sound like I’m bragging about this (which I am) but I also feel very lucky that things worked out so nicely! Side note end.
Updated:  things went well today (yesterday)!  I basically did the same thing in each class where I introduced myself with a little PowerPoint I made about my self with pictures.  Then the kids were encouraged to ask me questions about my life and where I come from. The younger kids (12 y/o) were a lot more receptive to this than the older kids (18ish).  Then we did different activities in each class, with certain teachers relying on me a lot more than others.  In my last class, the teacher was new and seemed pretty lost (and her English was just ok) so she relied on me for help.  Another teacher wanted me to ask the kids different questions about the family… I literally have no clue what she called this I have never heard of the word, but I did my best.  In another class, we did sort of a Simon says type game with imperatives.  The kids liked that game and I got all of them out with “stick out your tongue”.  None of them knew what it was and therefore lost ;)
I will mostly be working with small groups of kids in order to give them more focused attention, but the teachers want me to plan a few lessons for the entire class.  One teacher already e-mailed me and asked me to prepare a presentation about myself (for a class I have not met), using expressions of taste like (I like, I hate, I am impartial to) as well as a presentation of young writers.  I asked her for clarification on that and am waiting to hear back.
And a post-school selfie, of course:IMG_0608
So that’s my school update!  I am (so far) very pleased with my placement and looking forward to doing more in the school.  Plus the kids think I’m so cool haha what a contrast to when I was in school hahah….
Oh one more thing.  When I first got here, I e-mailed the teacher at my school and asked where she recommended that I live (if I want to be near school).  She recommended the town where the school is located.  IMG_0611NOPE.
Next update:
So last week….I found an apartment!
And I didn’t take it!  I went to see an apartment in Legazpi, which is maybe 15 minutes on the metro to the city center, or 1/2 hour walk.  I liked the apartment when I saw it, but there were a number of reasons I didn’t take it:
-Too far, especially in the winter.  I don’t mind walking…now…but in the winter when the metro is not running after 1:30 am, I will not be happy.
-The room was sufficient (had a window and fully furnished) but the apartment itself was tiny.  The other roommate was super nice, but you might be the nicest person in the world and I still might kill you in such a small place.
-Literally just too small.
-She had a cat…which is fine but prefer no.  Soon enough they start with the “can you just watch fluffy for the weekend….”  No.
-300E plus utilities each month, and she was pressuring me to sign a one year contract.
I had faith that I would find something equally as nice closer to the center for the same price.  Or something much nicer.  Either way, I decided to wait. 
Last night I found an apartment through my foster mom.  It’s not PERFECT, but waiting for the perfect apartment may lead me nowhere.  Right now it is under construction and looks pretty horrific, but I think it will look good when it’s done.IMG_0618
My room…
IMG_0622The bathroom…
The living room…
The kitchen…
-In Lavapies!  It might be considered the hood, but…well, you can take the girl out of Philly, but you can’t take the Philly out of the girl.  I need a little hood in my life ;)
-Lavapies is close to the city center and the apartment is less than one block from the metro I need to take in the morning.
-It’s split between 5 students which means that no one owns the place and that we are all on the lease.  No one can say “you can’t do that, this is my house”.  I was worried about that when trying to rent from other people.
-My lease can be as long as I want it.
-380E including utilities.
-The room has a window.
-The one roommate I met seems really nice.
-The landlord seems awesome and like a nice, helpful guy.
-Single bed.
-Window looks into the courtyard, but in February, I will have the opportunity to move into a room with a balcony.
-Kitchen has no oven.
-Kitchen is small and will be shared between 5 people.
-No Spanish roommates (as of now).
I am going back on Sunday to check it out in the daylight and pay a deposit (if I still like it).  Eeeeeekkkkkkkkkkkkkk!
Random picture of Chino store (that’s what they are called!!) that sell EVERYTHING!  They’re amazing.IMG_0549
Have an amazing weekend :)

Lately in Spain.

Gooooood Morning, Sunshines!

Here I am, once again, blogging from a cafe near my house.  It’s called Martina Cocina and it has the perfect touristy-local vibe.  Also their wifi is strong and they give these little butter cookies with their coffee.


Doesn’t it look warm and inviting?

I tried to get up early (and failed-ish.  Got up at 9) And had breakfast a la mircowave/toasterIMG_0539

And then headed over to sit here and

a) look for housing (update- saw a place yesterday in Legazpi.  Legazpi is a little further from the city center than I would like to be (about 30 minutes walking or 10 minutes on the metro, but the metro doesn’t run all night.)  The girl that lives there is 29, Spanish, and seems really cool.  The room is adequate with a single bed (boo), a window (yay), and furnished with a desk, night table, etc (yay).  The apartment itself is on the smaller side with more of a kitchenette than a kitchen (boo) but there is a nice terrace/patio (yay).  I should find out today if I got it.  In the meantime, onward with the search!

b) plan another English lesson for this afternoon.  My student wants to work on listening, so I found a few news articles that I will read to him and have him answer questions about them.  I also picked out some vocabulary from each article.  In the future, I would like to use interviews, news reports, ads, etc, but his office doesn’t have wifi and I ate my data within a week…so next month :)

c) blog with ya’ll even though most of my loyal readers (dad, mom, some of you Facebook folk) are still sleeping.  You’ll have something to read when you get up and put you back to sleep :)

Hmmm so let’s see.  What’s new?  This weekend was okay.  i am still having a hard time finding a “group”.  Of course I am very grateful for and love my two amigas Annie and Monica, but I’m still waiting for this feeling of “this is where I belong”.  I know it will come with time, though….I hope.

Friday we went out, but I ended up going home pretty early.  Saturday…what did I do Saturday?!  I can’t remember.  Probably the same thing I do every day…looked for housing, walked around a ton, oh!  I had another private English lesson, but it was more like an interview…like he was interviewing me.  WHAT IS IT WITH THESE PEOPLE AND INTERVIEWS?!  But in all seriousness, he was very nice and he spoke well, so we shall see.  Saturday night, I went to an “intercambio” with Annie and it was..strange, to say the least.  I guess it was what I was expecting, but also not what I was expecting.  I’m not writing them off entirely, so I’m hoping to check out a few others this Thursday when they seem to be the most common.

Sunday was a good day!  It was the first day I whipped out my biga$$ camera.

I went to El Rastro with Annie:DSC_0618-001

Basically a huuuuge flea market-literally full of thousands of people.  They sell everything and anything there, but mostly clothes, jewelry, artsy things, tapestries, etc.DSC_0625-001 I didn’t buy anything because I was a bit overwhelmed by the selection as well as the number of people.  I was getting a bit claustrophobic in there!DSC_0623-001

This is the kind of thing I can picture telling my dad and his eyes will bug out with concern…haha don’t worry dad, I know you’re reading this!!

We also walked over to Mercado de la Cebada, which we still aren’t really sure what it is!DSC_0633-001 The market itself was closed, but on Sunday it drew big crowds of people playing soccer (futbol), listening to music, or sitting with friends- chatting and drinking.DSC_0638-001 DSC_0632-001

The rest of the afternoon, we walked around and I looked like a big tourist with my camerata…instead of camerita, I used -ata.  No?DSC_0642-001 DSC_0648-001 DSC_0653-001 DSC_0654-001

In Madrid, there are these people-statue things all over the place.  We still aren’t quite sure how these guys do this all day long…there has to be some sort of plate in there holding this man up?!DSC_0655-001

There also happened to be some sort of sporting event going on!  I think it may have been a triathlon, but I don’t know.  I would love to do a half marathon or some big event while I’m here in Europe.


I saw another apartment on Sunday that was reaaalllllllllllllllllllly nice!  And it wasn’t too expensive, had a big kitchen, two bathrooms, and a big room with a balcony, double bed, and furnished.  Perfect, right?  Want to know what’s NOT perfect?  That over 300 people responded to their ad in less than an hour and they will be “calling people back for a second interview.  Maybe to have a beer or something”.  I did not get a “call back”, but acting has never been my thing and one of the roommates was annoying.  So bye.

I eventually meandered home, stopping along the way at a huge HUGE club here called Joy because I saw a sign that said “Cuban Nights” on Sundays with dance lessons.  I just wanted to see how much it was (10E to get in), but the bouncer thought he was cool so I just thanked him and kept walking.  Plus I had valuable things with me.  I walked home, stopping along the way to be a tourist :)


I saw…

Curved buildings? DSC_0660-001 DSC_0664-001

People Getting Eggs Smashed on Their Heads (I think to raise $)


A Caricature ArtistDSC_0678-001 DSC_0679-001

I wonder if she asked for her $ back after seeing this?


Other sites:DSC_0682-001 DSC_0684-001 DSC_0687-001 IMG_0498

And then yesterday (Monday), I woke up and went for a run, then got dressed and went to Orientation with the Community of Madrid, which I don’t want to say was pointless, but…well, it was completely pointless.  So afterwards, I walked allllll the way home.  I like taking the metro to my destination and then walking home.  It’s helped me figure out the layout of this city- even if it did take me over an hour and a half to get home!IMG_0529IMG_0531Selfie game strong. Haaaa

Alright, that’s all!  Finished my cup of coffee and I need to go eat lunch before my lesson.  Also on the agenda for today:

  • Paying for another week of foster care
  • Food shopping
  • Looking for my forever home
  • Finishing my “about me” PowerPoint to take to school on my first day.

Alright, the people sitting next to me are basically chewing their food and putting it into the other persons mouth.  Time for me to go.


Things I Should Have Packed.

How do you pack to move to another country?  How do you know what to bring?  I knew that since I was moving to Europe, I would realistically be able to FIND anything that I didn’t bring from home.  This is no 3rd world country, by any means.  But there are a number of things that would have made my first days/ month here easier and more convenient.Things I Should Have Packed

  • Peanut butter.  This list is in no order but peanut butter tops the list, for sure.  They don’t have peanut butter in Peru or in Costa Rica or in Cuba.  What is it with these places?!  I asked a Spaniard and he didn’t really know what I was talking about and then eventually said they don’t have that here.  I would have brought 3 jars, just to last me through December.  Or…this month
  • Rubber bands. something so simple, yet so useful.  I could use them to close up bags of food.
  • Plastic ziplock bags, large and small- would have been nice to be able to pack snacks, as well as keep my food fresh
  • A first-aid/ health kit- ugh this would have been extremely helpful.  I’m not talking like wrap bandages.  I mean DayQuil, NiteQuil, band-aids, Neosporin, headache meds, Tums, cough spray, cough drops.  Things that are useful!
  • More socks- I left Philadelphia when it was hot, hot, hot.  And now I am in Spain and it’s semi-chilly.  I wore sandals all summer long and now that it’s a bit colder, I realize I brought like…two pairs of socks.
  • A couple envelopes- never know when you’ll need to send a letter and I have literally no clue where there is a post office.
  • A few plastic utensils- living out of a hotel means scrounging for utensils to eat with
  • A shopping tote- they charge for plastic bags here!  And also, I’ll be walking to get many of my groceries so I need something reliable
  • A “tool kit”- scissors, push pins, safety pins, paperclips, a mini stapler, tape, post its, pens
  • My Fitbit!  I stopped using it for most of the summer, but now that I walk miles each day, I would love to be able to track my steps!
  • A flash drive- Of course you can buy them, but the first few days here involve gathering documents and printing things and it’s just so much easier if you already have on.  I just bought one for 8E, which isn’t terrible.

There are so many more that I think of every day, but these are the ones that keep coming to mind.  And obviously, this is Europe.  I can find all of these things are more in the stores around here, but it would have just made life easier if I had already had them with me.

How to Teach Your First Private English Class.

This post should be titled “How to Teach Your First Private English Class…When You Have No F***ing Idea What You’re Doing!”

Because today I taught a private English class and I a) have no experience teaching and b) don’t have any clue HOW to teach!

The day after I got to Madrid, I was told the three best ways to get private classes are:

1. – Make a profile and the requests will start rolling in


3. Facebook/ the school where you work- If you look on Facebook pages, tons of ads get posted- particularly by parents looking for native English speakers to play with their children.  The same will come from working in a school (apparently- I have not yet experienced this).

And for free language exchange: Conversation Exchange

After making profiles on those sites, I had a bunch of calls, texts and Whatsapp coming my way.  I responded to most inquiries- particularly those that said Hola Tamara yada yada yada, and not just Soy Interesado/a because that seemed like they just send that out to everyone.

I set up my first class for earlier today (Friday) and I was soooo nervous!  I have never taught a class and I didn’t want to mess anything up, but I figured that the worse that will happen is that we don’t get along/ I do a bad job and I never see them again, or- at best- everything goes well and I earn an extra 40E a week!

The class ended up going really well!  It was just a conversation class so basically we just chatted for an hour and then I got paid and then I left.  Success, right?

So here are my tips for going into your first class when you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing. :)  Like I said, I have literally taught ONE class and really have no clue, but this is what worked for me.

1. Be confident!  You’re the teacher and they’re the student, so act like you know what you’re doing and they’ll think you do.  Even though that’s so far from the truth.

2. Buy a notebook and use it solely for your private lessons.  You can write little notes after the lesson about what you covered and also jot down if and how much you were paid so that you don’t get confused.  Before going, I wrote his name, the date and then a list of questions that I wanted to cover for the day, which brings me to…

3. Have a list of questions, especially for the first day.  It’s a good idea to cover:

  • Their goals for the English classes.  Conversation?  Listening?  Speaking?  Being able to use English at work?  Being able to write in English?  What do they want to accomplish (overall) with you.
  • Whether or not they have had English classes before (either formal or informal) and what they liked or did not like about those classes.
  • What they liked or did not like about previous teachers
  • What they think their strengths and weaknesses are
  • What do they do in their free time?  This will give you a good base of topics to bring up during future conversations.
  • Would they prefer that you correct their mistakes while they speak, or wait until the end of the lesson?  (Obviously I am NO EXPERT, but I think it’s a good idea to do a mix of this.  Try to gently correct their English on the spot so that there is context, but also do a general review of mistakes made throughout the lesson)

4.  The first day can be super informal and might not be an entire hour, which is Ok (i think?  See I have no idea!!).  You’re still getting to know one another and you can always tell them that you’ll make up the time in the next lesson or charge less for the first class.

Obviously I know nothing, but I’m so proud of myself for a successful first lesson!  This student wants to meet 2x/ week and since it’s just conversation and since he is my first guinea pig, I am only charging 15E/ session (which is still more money than I have ever made at any job in my entire life).  For the rest of my unlucky students, I will be charging 20E/ hour.   If I can earn an additional 100E/ week, my rent will technically be paid (on my apartment that does not yet exist….)


Run Retiro, Run

Good Morning/Afternoon!

I am live blogging from a little coffee shop in Lavapies!IMG_0429 I needed to get out of the house- it’s small and quite dark and I think my host mom has a mild case of the hoardies.  But she is super nice, so that’s all that matters :) Besides going to get dinner with Monica, I didn’t leave the house at all yesterday.

I woke up this morning feeling…antsy…like I’m not out doing enough/ seeing enough/ experiencing enough.  Like I am letting my time slip away here, when really I have been here for less than two weeks and I’m still homeless.  I guess I feel like this because I met a girl the other day that is spending 5 days in France this week before we start work next week.  I’m super jealous, but at the same time, I don’t have a place to live yet and to leave the country would not be a good idea.  Plus, I have been out and about exploring Madrid.IMG_0387 IMG_0385 IMG_0380

Regardless, I woke up this morning ready to go out and do something so I headed to Retiro- a massive park in Madrid where you find people running, walking, biking, having picnics, sunbathing, enjoying a bottle of wine, or just hanging out.IMG_0404

It’s absolutely beautiful and such a contrast to the busy, busy city life of Madrid.  There and back to Retiro was 3 miles or so and I ran ~1 mile in the park, but not too much because I was afraid of getting lost and my phone battery dies quickly!IMG_0398

This Sunday, my friends and I are planning to have a very Spanish Sunday- we will go to El Rastro (a large, bustling flea market) in the morning and then head to Retiro with a bottle of wine (or 3), a picnic blanket, and some food and relax in the shade.  :)  When in Rome, right?IMG_0394 IMG_0393 IMG_0390On my way out of Retiro, I saw a book fair of some sort- but it looked somewhat permanent.  I really miss reading and books so this made me somewhat giddy.  I browsed a little bit, but I’m excited to hopefully join a library here soon!IMG_0414I even saw a photo shoot of some sort- the second since I’ve been here.IMG_0411

And then continued my journey home through the winding streets of Madrid.IMG_0421

And chugged water :) IMG_0423

Alright, this took me a lot longer than I planned and my coffee cup is bone-dry.  As soon as I publish this I am going to make the skeleton of a PowerPoint presenation about myself to share with my class and then I’m off to find a supermarket!  Almost out of food at home :)

Hasta luego!

My New Foster Home and Some Life Lessons.

Like I said a couple of days ago, since we were evicted from the hotel (really our stay just ended), I am staying with a host family for the next week while I continue to sniff out an apartment.IMG_0327Eviction via Instagram.


The outside of my foster home.

It was only 95Euro for the week (to share a tiny room), but I get a kitchen!  With a microwave! And a stove! And a toaster!!!!

Hellloooooo breakfast that’s not cold.IMG_0348

It’s off on a side street in Lavapies, which is where I really want to live!  Don’t laugh, haters.  I’m going to find a room here….IMG_0346 IMG_0336 IMG_0335

So last night, Monica and I went out to an “Intercambio” which is basically a language exchange held at a bar.  But we got there and found out that it will begin in two weeks…so….we were already at the bar, so why not get a drink?  So we did.IMG_0310  Which turned into many more drinks (one club told us that if we pay 10E, we get entry into 5 clubs and a shot at each one).  The lie detector determined…that THAT was a lie!  Per Maury.

Lesson of the night:

A free shot does NOT mean a free shot of whatever you want, like vodka, tequila, rum.  It’s a shot of “the house mix” aka a ton of sugar juice and a little bit of alcohol and a recipe for barfing the next day.

So long story short, I didn’t get home until almost 4 am, less sober than I would have liked to have been and this morning I woke up with a drill gun in my head, or at least it felt that way.  Soooo, I also learned some lessons about what I need in a room.

House Hunting Lessons:

1. The room MUST have a window that can be opened.  It was hot hot hot this morning while I sweated out the alcohol so I stumbled over to the window and cranked that baby open for a nice breeze.  It’s also the only room in this apartment that gets any light.  I need light.

2. The room must be located on a back street.  I think someone knew I was hungover and dying this morning and wanted to be cruel because why else would they do construction outside my window at 7:00 am?!  It’s LOUD back here and we are on a side street so I can’t imagine a main street.IMG_0306

View from the window.

3.  It must have a working stove and microwave and toaster, but the oven is not necessary.  I really never use the oven at home, so I doubt I will use it much here, either.

That is all.  I am off to meet up with Monica to eat at 100 Mortaditos, this restaurant that has 100 sandwiches on their menu and each costs 1E on Sunday/ Wednesday or between 1 and 3 E any other day of the week!IMG_0302  My kind of place ;)

We may or may not have gone twice yesterday…IMG_0299 IMG_0300

How about some radioactive cheese?

And an update on the housing hunt…went to go see a place today and the owner wouldn’t answer their phone when I got there.  Rude.  ESPECIALLY because I stumbled out of bed with aforementioned drill gun in my head to get to the appointment.  So I just slowly dragged by feet to the closest farmacia for some Ibuprofen (only 1.90E for a huge pack!) and my heart skipped a beat when I saw this:IMG_0337

Only to find out they are renting…GARAGES.  Maybe I could live in one?

I was supposed to see another tonight at 7:30 and right when I was about to leave (with 500E cash to put down a deposit), the landlord texted me that the only rooms left were over 500E.  Um, no.

Like always, WOOF.


Homeless with Peanut Butter.

It’s funny to think about when we got here (a week ago?!  It feels like a month) people would sit around chatting about how “they are going to live in La Latina” or “want a cute flat with a nice balcony in the room”…me.  And now you look around in you see people pulling their hair out while they desperately search for a place ANYWHERE.  It’s a dark room with a cot and no windows?  GREAT I’ll take it!  in the boonies of Madrid?  No problem I can travel.  With an old lady and her grandson?  I love old ladies! (Saw one yesterday with an old lady…) We are learning to take what comes our way because honestly, I think I could talk my way into Harvard at this point.  Going to see a room in Madrid is like being interviewed for the most important moment in your life…and you don’t even get to finish your sentence before the next applicant is in the door..literally!  I went to three showings today.  But first, lunch,IMG_0257

The first was for a room that looked really really nice on Idealista.IMG_0261

It was in Lavapies (love), had a room with a double bed (love) but no window (hate) but a living room with a beautiful balcony (love love love).  But the woman refused to do any sort of contract and spoke too fast and was kind of rude and the hallway smelled like curry.  There were two more girls there after me and even though I immediately messaged the woman and said I would pay the deposit, she didn’t respond.  Not meant to be and there are better places.IMG_0250 IMG_0251

Then I went to see a place with another girl from my program.  It was an apartment in a GREAT part of town (right near La Latina metro) but the apartment was an apartment for ants and vampires.  It was tiny, had no windows, except for the interior part of the building, and had appliances from the 1970s.  Also we would have to pay an outrageous deposit and set up our own wifi and stuff.  No.IMG_0270

The last one I saw as I was walking to the second appointment.  It had just been posted and looked AMAZING.  So I literally stalk-called them until they answered the phone, walked over to go see it and fell in love.  It’s in the most incredible part of town right near the center (Anton Martin), every room has a beautiful balcony including the kitchen, it has a double bed and it’s reasonably priced.  It’s with two Spanish girls and an American guy, and everyone is young.  I immediately messaged the girl and told her I would pay the deposit, but they are going to let me know.

Is this not the most cut-throat process you have ever heard of?!

In between all of this, I walked two miles-TWO MILES- to buy peanut butter. HEAVEN IN MADRID.IMG_0279

I searched “where to buy peanut butter Madrid” and Taste of America came up.  I kept getting lost so it took me almost an hour to get there.  But I found it…I found heaven.IMG_0282

It came with a hefty price tag, but it’s worth it.  A couple days ago, I asked a guy I met if he knew where they sold it and he had no idea what I was talking about so I held up a peanut and said MANTEQUILLA CON *this* and he was like “ohhh, you Americans eat that.  We don’t eat that”IMG_0277.  The store also had American cereals, candies, cake mixes, canned goods, pancake mix, condiments and more.  Pretty cool but I just wanted my peanut butter.IMG_0280 IMG_0281 IMG_0275

I probably covered more than 8 miles today since I was out by 9 am and not back until after 7:30.  My feet feel like they are detaching themselves from my body and I can barely keep my eyes open.  Tonight is my last night in this hotel so tomorrow I will be dragging my 50 (I have bought a few pounds of goods) duffel to the closest bridge and camping under it until further notice.IMG_0296

Or maybe I’ll be living with a host family.  Yeah, that’s what I’m doing.IMG_0297 For one week, or until I can find my forever home.  I’m like a puppy that’s up for adoption and needs to find their forever home.